david fisman

Former COVID advisory table member says Ontario is sitting on new modelling projections

A member of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has just quit over what he calls "the degree to which political considerations" are currently impacting the transparent sharing of future pandemic modelling projections with the public.

Dr. David Fisman publicized his resignation on Monday morning in a now-viral tweet that states "Ontario needs a public health system that is arm's length from politics," inferring that, at this point, the two are too closely tied.

The U of T epidemiologist was among the 40 or so experts appointed early last year to conduct research and make recommendations to help inform the provincial government's pandemic response. 

A large part of this has been regularly modelling potential future case numbers, ICU admissions and other such figures, something that has proven to be an inexact science that has predicted worst case scenarios that have not come to fruition.

Shortly before stepping down, Fisman shared that the government is at present sitting on "important modelling work that projects a grim fall," adding that he did not understand why it is not yet being released.

"If @COVIDSciOntario is arm's length from the government it should release its modeling. If it's not arm's length from the government we should have that conversation," he tweeted on Saturday afternoon.

His subsequent letter to table co-chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown today details the "uncomfortable position" he says he's found himself in by having to somewhat censor his knowledge and feelings on the subject in order to please colleagues.

The table swiftly responded to what it called "rumours" that it was withholding pandemic forecasts for autumn, writing on Twitter "to be absolutely clear, that is not true."

"We are now working to understand how COVID-19 may affect Ontario in coming months. As always, that means integrating the views arising from *many* models done by *many* teams and reviewing those results *across* teams until we generate a reasonable, scientific consensus," reads the group's response.

The table's scientific director, Dr. Peter Juni, assured that the group is "completely independent of the government when speaking with Global News radio this morning, stating that, as was tweeted, the experts are still assessing and compiling a number of different models to reach one general prediction. 

"This is quality assurance and scientific considerations that we're having, and not political considerations," he said.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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