More than 15 months into the pandemic, Ontario is getting a new chief medical officer of health, the Star has learned.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the move, but who are not authorized to speak publicly, Dr. Kieran Moore, the much-respected medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, will replace the much-criticized Dr. David Williams, who has been Ontario’s top doctor since 2016.
The move is expected to be announced Monday, with Moore not expected to officially take the job full-time for several weeks. Williams, who was appointed by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government, was due to retire in February, but the Ford government extended that term to September during the second wave of COVID-19.
Neither Moore nor the Ministry of Health responded to requests for comment. The move comes as the pandemic has finally started to recede in earnest, and after the province unveiled a reopening plan which was praised as responsible by prominent medical figures.
The appointment of the medical officer of health is made by the premier.
Moore has been one of Ontario’s most celebrated public health officials during the pandemic. He serves on the province’s vaccine task force, and was part of a panel that recently issued recommendations to the federal government on a more robust border control system.
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And Kingston has been a notable COVID-19 success story. As reported by the Star’s Omar Mosleh earlier this year, in the first wave Moore was quick to co-ordinate a plan with local health partners, including long-term care homes; he restricted visitors and closed non-essential services a week before the province’s first lockdown on March 24; he made masks in workplaces mandatory on June 26, more than three months before the province did. And all along, he has used his public health authority to close a high number of local businesses where the virus had been traced.
There are 19 Ontario health units with smaller populations than Kingston, and as of Friday, the region of more than 208,000 had the second-lowest rate of new cases in the entire province. Of Ontario’s 34 public health units, only Algoma, North Bay Parry Sound, and Renfrew have recorded a lower peak weekly rate than Kingston’s, and over the entire pandemic, Kingston’s total case rate is the sixth-best in the province.
Williams has attracted criticism for his unclear style of communication, and his endorsement of some controversial aspects of the province’s strategy. When it was announced in late November that Williams’s contract would be extended, Premier Doug Ford said, “He’s brought us all the way through this, along with Dr. (Barbara) Yaffe and their whole team, so I want to thank all of them. I don’t ever believe in changing a dance partner in the middle of a dance, especially when he’s an incredible dancer, like Dr. Williams. He’s a great doctor.”
“This is nothing to brag about, because we’re in a serious situation. But when I compare this spread that’s going on across our country and to the exclusion of the small Maritime provinces, we have the lowest cases. Then I look at the United States. Again, outside of a few small states, we have lower cases per hundred thousand than any other jurisdiction.”
Ontario would eventually go on to record some of the highest case rates in North America in its third wave, along with Alberta.
Williams was previously the medical officer of health for Thunder Bay from 1991 to 2005 and again from 2011 to 2015, worked in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care from 2005 to 2011. He also served as Ontario’s acting CMOH from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2015 to 2016.
Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur
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