Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday August 25, 2021
Top epidemiologist resigns from Ontario’s COVID-19 science table, alleges withholding of ‘grim’ projections
One of Ontario’s most vocal epidemiologists has resigned from the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, alleging the group has delayed publication of its pandemic projections for the fall due to political interference — a charge the table has denied.
Dr. David Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, announced on Twitter on Monday morning that he would step down from the table, posting a letter of resignation he sent to table co-chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown.
Fisman said that while he had “mixed emotions” about resigning, he had been “repeatedly dissenting publicly from table guidance,” adding that Ontario “needs a public health system that is arm’s length from politics.”
“I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the degree to which political considerations appear to be driving outputs from the tables, or at least the degree to which these outputs are shared in a transparent manner with the public,” he wrote.
“I do not wish to remain in this uncomfortable position, where I must choose between placid relations with colleagues on the one hand, and the necessity of speaking the truth during a public health crisis on the other.”
The letter did not include any specifics about the alleged political considerations.
Fisman has already been removed from the table’s list of members on its website.
His resignation comes two days after he tweeted that the science table had “important modelling work that projects a grim fall” and implied its publication had been intentionally delayed.
“I don’t understand why they’re not releasing that. It’s important for people to understand what lies ahead, and what the stakes are,” he wrote.
The table has strongly refuted that it is purposefully withholding projections for the fall. In a series of tweets from its official account, it said, “There appear to be some rumours that the Science Advisory Table is withholding a consensus model of COVID-19 in the fall. To be absolutely clear, that is not true.”
The table’s statement went on to say that it was currently “working to understand how COVID-19 may affect Ontario in coming months,” which involves integrating and reviewing “many models done by many teams” until there is a “reasonable, scientific consensus.” (CBC)