Democracies are built on the premise of mistrust (of especially elites) but require trust to function. During pandemics governments enact public health measures with more force than usual. From the perspective of public health officials, compliance to public health measures is a high priority. From the perspective of publics, the question of which information to trust and which measures to adopt has more salience. In spite of much research on trust, there is very little attention to the ontological assumptions underpinning use of the concept in research and practice. I identify three distinct approaches to trust, each with a focus that relies on different underlying conceptualisations: 1) A focus on trust as an intra-psychic phenomenon 2) A focus on trustworthiness as a set of normative criteria 3) An understanding of trust as relational, with attention to historical, cultural, and normative aspects of relationships. I then argue that one mechanism to build relational trust in times of pandemics is public deliberation. Public deliberation allows for the explicit and public consideration of important trade-offs that need to be considered in making policy decisions. However, the ideals of public deliberation are difficult to implement given COVID-19 constraints in which prolonged in-person gatherings of people are not feasible. I provide an overview of plans for a virtual public deliberation process in British Columbia, Canada, which is intended to provide a forum to generate public input on key policy decisions about ongoing measures to combat COVID.