Ontario COVID-19 science table member resigns after alleging withheld data projects ‘grim fall’


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, who 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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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, some 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.

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