COVID-19: Prominent scientist quits advisory table over ‘political considerations’; province records 639 new cases

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Ontario reported 639 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while one of the highest profile members of the province’s Science Advisory Table resigned in frustration, claiming political interference in its work.


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Of the new cases, 515 are people who were not fully vaccinated while 124 involved fully vaccinated people, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Toronto had the most new cases with 124, followed by Peel with 97, York with 91 and Hamilton with 64.

On Sunday, the province recorded 722 cases, its highest number of new infections in nearly three months.

Ottawa Public Health reported 22 new cases on Monday, bring the number of active cases in the city to 165. There have been no new deaths.

OPH reported five people in hospital, with one person in intensive care.

The seven-day average for new cases per 100,0000 people in Ottawa is 12.9.

The city’s seven-day average for the effective reproduction number is at 1.05.


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Any number above 1.0 indicates the infection is spreading.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s effective reproduction number climbed to 1.25.

There were 204 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, with 151 in intensive care and 82 on ventilators. No new deaths were reported, leaving the total unchanged at 9,453.

As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, nearly 20.5 million vaccinations have been administered with 74.94 per cent of the population 12 and older fully vaccinated and 82.21 per cent with at least one dose.

The latest COVID-19 numbers come as Dr. David Fisman, one of the most prominent members of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, resigned in frustration over the “political considerations” he said appear to be  controlling its release of data.


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The science table, made up of volunteer doctors and health care experts, has not released a report on its COVID-19 modelling since June.

“In a system such as ours it was always going to be a challenge to balance the best scientific guidance with what is politically possible,” Fisman wrote in his resignation letter to chairman Dr. Adelsteinn Brown. “I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the degree 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.”


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Fisman is an epidemiologist at University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. In his letter, which was dated Aug. 20, but tweeted by him Monday morning, lauds the science table’s work, saying it set “an example for others across Canada, and globally.”

On the weekend, Fisman tweeted that the modelling projects “a grim fall” and that people should know about it.

“The Ontario science table has important modeling work that projects a grim fall. 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 tweeted.

A colleague of Fisman’s, Diegeo Bassani, himself an epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, sounded his own dire warning on Twitter over the weekend.


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“Anyone who has any common sense, or has seen the Ontario Science Table modeling, knows the prospects are awful. They must have a really incredible justification for remaining silent as kids go back to schools in 2 weeks. Waiting for magic or are schools not even opening?” Bassani tweeted on Saturday.


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A spokesman for the science table says the group is “completely independent of government and always has been.”

Robert Steiner says the table is not withholding pandemic modelling for the fall, but is currently generating a number of models and has yet to reach a consensus.

Opposition politicians called on Monday for Premier Doug Ford — who has not addressed the media in weeks — to comment on the matter, which has surfaced as the province weathers a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the contagious Delta variant.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford should address Fisman’s allegations of modelling projections being withheld for political reasons.

“The Science Table has been a crucial partner in navigating the COVID-19 public health crisis,” Schreiner said in a statement. “When a member seemingly resigns in protest, it is a cause for concern. And it needs to be clarified for the people of Ontario.”


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NDP leader Andrea Horwath said scientific modelling on the disease is important, but she argued that Ford should not have to wait for the group’s guidance to take actions to fight the fourth wave, especially with schools  set to resume in-person classes in a few weeks.

“We’re in a very bad spot right now, as everybody knows,” Horwarth said. “Where’s Doug Ford while all this is going down?”

She also noted that Ford has not always followed the table’s advice when it’s been provided.
“There’s no doubt that the modelling is important, but if you have a government that ignores it anyways, its value is diminished.”

A spokeswoman for the health minister said the science table is independent and did not comment on Fisman’s allegations of political influence.


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Postmedia’s Tim Baines reported Monday that the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group would begin requiring fans to provide proof of vaccination or negative COVID test, starting with the Sept. 22 Ottawa Redblacks game. Children under 12 would be exempted.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government announced Monday morning that it will extend its wage subsidy for personal support workers. The government’s latest $169-million boost is the third time the wage subsidy has been extended and will cover about 158,000 workers.

It includes a $3 an hour wage hike for PSWs who work in home and community care, long-term care, and for workers who support children in the activities of daily living. About 10,000 PSWs who work in public hospitals will get a $2 an hour increase.


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COVID-19 across Canada

Quebec reported 376 new COVID-19 cases Monday and one more death.

The Health Department, which no longer reports on weekends, says another 1,026 infections were identified on Friday and Saturday.

Officials say hospitalizations rose by 12 since their last report on Friday, to 99, and 31 people were in intensive care, a rise of one.

Officials say 78.2 per cent of Quebecers 12 and older are considered adequately vaccinated.

Many junior colleges across Quebec are reopening to in-person classes today for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government has cancelled two concerts that were intended to be experiments examining the impact of COVID-19 on large gatherings.


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Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said rising COVID-19 cases in the province make conditions too difficult to hold the two events that were to host a total of up to 25,000 people.

The concerts had been scheduled for the Quebec City area in September.

The province is testing a smartphone app that will run the vaccine passport system the government plans to impose across the province on Sept. 1.

The passport would be used in settings with a high degree of contact, such as festivals, bars, restaurants and gyms.

Health Minister Christian Dube says the government wants to have the app ready for use across the province by September.

B.C. is bringing in a vaccine card for residents to get access to restaurants, clubs, sporting events and other activities.


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Premier John Horgan says the card will give people the confidence to attend events and businesses knowing that others are protected around them.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says starting Sept. 13, a new order will require proof of having had a single dose of a vaccine to access certain social and recreational activities, as well as businesses.

After Oct. 24, Henry says entry to the same settings will require those 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated and only children 12 and under will be exempt.

She says the new measures will help reduce transmission of the virus and allow businesses to remain open for those who are protected by vaccines.

Places where vaccine cards will be necessary include indoor ticketed sports events; concerts, theatre, dance and symphony performances; indoor and patio dining at restaurants; as well as at nightclubs and casinos, fitness centres and at organized indoor events such as weddings and parties.


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Henry says there won’t be any exemptions for those who haven’t had two shots because it’s a temporary measure to get the province through a risky period and the events are optional.

She says there will be a process for those from outside the province who are fully vaccinated to access the same services.

Horgan says about 75 per cent of those who are eligible are fully vaccinated in the province, meaning a majority of people in B.C. are eligible for the card.

“And that majority wants to know that people who they are interacting with have taken the same steps to protect themselves, and their loved ones and their communities,” Horgan said.

The move comes as case counts surge in the Interior Health region, forcing officials to expand restrictions currently in place in the central Okanagan, such as mandatory mask wearing and reduced limits on indoor and outdoor events, across the entire region.


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British Columbia reported 663 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. More than half of the 6,345 active cases were in the Interior Health region.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix attributed the spike in cases in the Interior to lower vaccination rates.

The displacement of many residents ordered out of their homes because of wildfires has made containing COVID-19 especially challenging, Henry said.

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With files from The Canadian Press



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