A member of Ontario’s COVID-19 science and modelling table has stepped down after he took to Twitter and accused the group of withholding modelling data that, according to him, projects a “grim fall.”
Dr. David Fisman, an infectious disease epidemiologist and physician, issued a letter to the science table, which advises the Ontario government, announcing his resignation on Monday, two days after coming under fire for his tweets.
“The Ontario science table has important modeling work that projects a grim fall,” Fisman wrote on Twitter early Saturday. “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.”
“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 wrote in another Tweet several hours later.
Many took to Twitter and responded to Fisman’s tweets. Some called the allegation “unfair” and others said they were angry that modelling data for the fall has not yet been released.
The Ontario COVID-19 science and modelling table responded to what it called “rumours” and said, “to be absolutely clear, that is not true.”
The table said many models are being conducted by many teams that are reviewing the data.
“Anything less is not rigorous science, and risks either underestimating or overestimating the real dangers we may face,” the science table tweeted. “A lot of mathematical and scientific work goes into generating a modelling consensus that Ontarians can count on; we move quickly, but not prematurely.
“We’re currently *beginning* to generate individual models for that review. To be clear, no single model — no matter how rigorous it is — reflects the *consensus* view that we believe should inform Ontario’s response.”
On Monday morning, Fisman said he decided to resign from the group, saying in his letter that he felt “increasingly uncomfortable with the degree to which political considerations appear to be driving outputs from the table, or at least the degree to which these outputs are shared in a transparent manner with the public.”
“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 truth during a public health crisis on the other,” Fisman continued.
Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director for Ontario’s COVID-19 science table, commented on the process of the data projections and maintains that the table is “completely independent of the government.”
“We just need to get it right and there is a process in place,” Juni told Global News Radio 900 CHML, noting that all of the members do this on a voluntary basis and have been working on the models for 18 months.
He said the process includes looking at a variety of models and coming to a consensus to show the range of projections but with the summer break that has not happened.
“We don’t want just to go out with a single model,” Juni said. “This is quality assurance and scientific considerations that we’re having, and not political considerations.”
Juni said he does not know exactly what modelling Fisman is referring to but he said the table does receive outside modelling including data from one modeler, who is not yet a member of the table.
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“The point is there are a lot of models out there,” Juni said. “When you look also at other places in the world, we see the same sort of pattern. The pattern is now, after we left Step 2 of the reopening, we start to see an exponential growth. It actually looks better right now than it used to in about 10 days ago.
“But it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods yet,” he continued. “And some extent of restriction will be required in addition to a continued vaccine effort to get to the next level. The next level will be that we vaccinate kids below the age of 12 hopefully in December.”
On Monday, Ontario reported 639 new COVID-19 cases after the past five days showed a concerning upward trend that saw daily case counts soar, with one topping 700. Patients in intensive care units also continue to increase, reaching 151.
Experts and government officials have indicated that Ontario has entered a fourth wave driven by the contagious Delta variant.
So far, 82 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and older have at least one vaccine dose, with about 75 per cent having both shots in Ontario.