According to internal emails, political aides in the Prime Minister's Office instructed staff to "work in some compassionate lines about caring" in public statements on mask shortages at nursing homes. Most COVID victims in Canada were over 80.
"Can you guys work with seniors [department] to build in some compassionate lines about caring for the most vulnerable in our society?" reads an April 6, 2020 staff email by Sabrina Kim, then an advisor to the prime minister. News coverage of severe mask shortages at nursing homes prompted the email, reported Blacklock's.
"This is a brutal story," wrote Kim. "Just given how much larger of a problem this is getting with health authorities advising that PPE protects the general public, it feels weird that there's nothing we can do to help offset the ballooning costs."
The previous day, April 5, CTV News medical reporter Avis Favaro published a story documenting the lack of federal supplies at nursing homes. The story was headlined, "Long Term Care Homes Are Being Offered Masks And Gloves, But Only If They Can Pay Big."
The story included a video of empty stock shelves from an unidentified nursing home in Western Canada and emails from operators that documented price-gouging by distributors. "Emails that were provided to CTV News shows suppliers offered high-grade masks that were once a buck apiece are now available for almost $8, a 700 percent increase," said the report.
"Surgical masks that cost 12 cents each in December are now nearly $6 apiece," the report added. CTV quoted the Canadian Association for Long Term Care chair that shortages "put our residents' lives at risk."
The request from the Prime Minister's Office for public statements "about caring for the most vulnerable" had the Department of Public Works draft a series of messages for the press. "We aren't able to say more than we're ensuring all provinces and territories are well supplied," wrote Tristan Laycock, a political aide in Public Works Minister Anita Anand's office.
"We stand ready to take further action," wrote Laycock. He recommended federal spokespeople tell reporters, "We recognize some of these goods are in high demand" and "our goal is to be over-prepared, and we are ordering supplies in anticipation of future needs."
Public Health Agency data showed of 27,754 Canadians killed by COVID, a total of 17,393 or 64 percent were over the age of 80. The average victim was 86, according to Canadian Institute of Actuaries data.
"The majority of Canadians who died from COVID were residents of long-term care homes," Statistics Canada wrote in an earlier Briefing On The Impact Of COVID-19 On Seniors for the Commons human resources committee.