Premier Doug Ford is defending the withdrawal of Ontario’s top health officer from the public eye as the epidemic enters its sixth wave, which has resulted in a 40% spike in hospitalizations week over week.
Since taking office, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has delivered weekly updates on COVID-19, frequently utilizing them to promote the benefits of vaccination or remind the public of the necessity of maintaining a safe distance and restricting contact.
The briefings, however, were suspended last month amid an improving viral picture and it has now been four weeks since Ontario’s top health official has addressed reporters.
Back in March, Moore had said that he would still speak publicly when the COVID situation merited it but he has been largely absent through the recent resurgence of viral activity and was nowhere to be found on Wednesday when the province announced plans to expand fourth dose eligibility to residents 60 and up.
During a press conference to discuss an unrelated matter on Wednesday morning, Ford was asked whether Ontarians would be able to hear from Moore anytime soon but largely sidestepped the question, instead defending the work ethic of his top health official.
“Let me tell you about Dr. Moore. Dr. Moore is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He never rests, he works around the clock for the people of Ontario. Just yesterday he had a meeting with all public health officers throughout the province,” he said. “He is on the job 24/7 looking at the figures, looking at the stats and giving myself and our cabinet advice and he has done an incredible job from day one. I am his biggest fan.”
Ford’s comments on Wednesday come in the wake of the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital publicly calling on Moore to resume regular briefings in a video message posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.
In that video, Dr. Michael Warner accused the “government of pretending” like a resurgence of COVID isn’t happening and said that they are failing to take the necessary steps to protect Ontarians, including a return to mandatory masking.
Speaking with CP24 later on Wednesday, infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said that he does believed that Moore could help to quell some anxiety by speaking publicly, especially given the limited public health indicators available to Ontarians to apprise their personal risk due to an earlier decision to curtail access to PCR testing.
“I think the intention may be to help calm people but unfortunately I think the reverse is happening. There is a lot of angst, there is a lot of insecurity and anxiety because people don’t really know what is going on and the wastewater signal is basically all we have to go on at this point,” he said. “So I certainly hope that the situation changes. I think it would provide some level of confidence and some degree of grounding the situation if he were able to actually speak and let us know what his opinion is.”
On Wednesday Ontario reported 3,444 new lab confirmed cases of COVID-19, though the province’s science table has previously suggested that the true number of new infections each day is probably higher by a multiplier of 10.
Ford, for one, has portrayed the rebound as a “small increase” as late as last week, and on Wednesday dismissed predictions that the province’s hospitals might soon be overburdened, pointing to recent investments the province has made to provide more beds.
It should be emphasized, however, that medical professionals have stated that there is insufficient staff to manage many of those beds, rendering the capacity purely theoretical.
“I’m not minimizing it,” Ford stated. “We have the resources, we have the beds; we have a population of 15 million people, and we have 160 patients in the ICU (with COVID) who have been there for a long time.”
Source_ The Canadian Press