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A new breed of celebrity in the age of COVID-19: the chief medical officer

A new breed of celebrity in the age of COVID-19: the chief medical officer
Politics
Day after day, premiers have announced new restrictions on Canadians civil liberties that they say are critical to limiting the spread of COVID-19.

But it is the chief medical officers at their side who provide the science buttressing the calls for sacrifice. Some have become stars in their own right, displaying a kind of televisual bedside manner that combines a reassuring, fact-based approach with occasional levity.

Quebec s chief doctor, Horacio Arruda, recently shared his weekend self-isolation plan to bake Portuguese tarts, while Alberta s Deena Hinshaw recently wore a periodic-table-themed dress that lit up social media.

The scientists are pushing aside athletes and other entertainers for the public s attention as citizens try to navigate through unprecedented times.

Behavioural scientist Samuel Veissiere, a McGill University professor of psychiatry, said that confronted with a vague sense of impending doom, people want to reduce uncertainty.

"They want meaning, and they are looking to people they perceive as experts to give them answers in terms of what s going to happen," Veissiere said in an interview Friday. "People want stats, numbers. They want answers."

Before the pandemic, academics often lamented the public s loss of trust in institutions and in expert knowledge, Veissiere said. But that might be changing.

"People are becoming a little more humble," he said. "I think they are becoming aware of just, perhaps, the limitations of individualism and how important it is to work together as a community, including in identifying reliable sources of information."
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