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Dr. Jim Woodgett answers your COVID-19 questions

Nov. 5, 2020

Philanthropy has helped Sinai Health prepare for the “second wave” of COVID-19. Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute (LTRI), explains how donors are helping our champions of care deliver better care and next-level research to keep people across Ontario safer through this pandemic. Dr. Woodgett also shares some common-sense tips to help you navigate the coming months.

How have donors helped Sinai Health prepare for the second wave?

Dr. Woodgett: Sinai Health’s supporters gave us an incredible six-month head-start to advance COVID-19 testing. When non-essential activities were shut down, and the federal and provincial governments were preparing to release funding for COVID-19 research, the Sinai CEO fund provided seed support to help our investigators launch their initiatives. For example, it allowed us to buy a robotic system for performing viral RNA extractions.

What advances in COVID research do you find especially significant or promising?

Dr. Woodgett: Thanks in large part to the philanthropic donation of an important piece of testing equipment, Mount Sinai’s amazing microbiology lab quickly ramped up its testing capacity from a few hundred tests daily in February to well over 10,000 at present. It’s the most productive lab in Ontario, perhaps Canada.

We still need to keep increasing testing capacity. Our own Dr. Jeff Wrana has developed a new diagnostic test that can evaluate over 20,000 samples at a time. Dr. Rod Bremner has developed a saliva test. Dr. Anne Claude Gingras has developed a test that shows if a person has previously had COVID-19 and is now immune to it. Philanthropy has been key to furthering all of this research.

How can we best protect ourselves and our families over the coming months and into the winter?

Dr. Woodgett: This virus will be with us for a while. Over 98% of the world’s population is still vulnerable to the virus and access to an effective vaccine is 6-9 months away at best. Over the past few months, we’ve come to recognize some long-term health effects from COVID-19. Our number one job is to stay uninfected.

The good news is we know how to avoid it. Getting a flu shot this Fall has never been more important! Masks work. They significantly reduce transmission from an infected person and they also reduce the viral exposure for those who are not infected. Combined with hand-washing, physical distancing and avoiding indoor activities, we can make it a lot harder for the virus to spread. We each must work to reduce our risk and avoid those who are not so responsible.

To keep up with the latest pandemic news and perspectives from Sinai Health, please follow Champions of Sinai: Understanding the COVID-19 Pandemic, available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and at sinaipodcast.ca.


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