Public Health Minister Sonya Hitz defends her COVID-19 column

Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair responds to backlash over Sun column about COVID-19, says her only aim was to ‘promote discourse’

The public health leader who wrote a news article about the COVID-19 pandemic that was at the centre of a backlash on social media has defended her article, saying she only meant to “promote discourse”.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Public Health Minister Sonya Hitz, who serves as vice-chair on the city’s Hospital Infection Prevention Committee, told journalists that she hoped everyone would learn from the article, called “The Pandemic Can’t Kill Me”: “There were people who are dying in our hospital beds, you can’t deny that.”

On March 22 she told the Star that she had been inspired to write the column after seeing a video of her late mother. As a nurse, Margaret Hitz taught hospital patients and staff how to use an automated external defibrillator, the product of a scientific breakthrough from a leading medical device manufacturer.

In the video of her mother’s final goodbye, Hitz said: “If I can do that for others, I can do that for myself.”

But the public health columnist faced a backlash – including death threats – after sharing a screenshot of it at the end of a column on the pandemic. The story has since gained international attention and Hitz has defended the column, saying that it was a teaching tool.

In her interview with the Star, she noted that the piece was aimed at helping the hospital system prepare for the novel coronavirus.

“I wrote the story in the spirit of being a resource – I had heard that there had been questions about this story that had been told by a number of different media outlets,” Hitz said. “When I saw the news on the internet, I thought that it was time to

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