'It's not a dump-off, it's a clean handover': Ontario's new top doctor steps into the role

‘It’s not a dump-off, it’s a clean handover’: Ontario’s new top doctor steps into the role

Ontario's incoming chief medical officer of health addressed the province alongside his predecessor on Thursday, offering a first look at how he will help lead the province through the rest of the pandemic.

Dr. David Williams retires Friday and has been getting incoming chief Dr. Kieran Moore up to speed, the pair explained.

"I can't thank Dr. Williams enough," said Moore. "He's been a terrific mentor over the last three weeks. In the first week, it was 12 hours a day at his hip, working in his office with our masks on. In the second week, we were making decisions together. Third week, he was helping me make decisions going forward, anticipating that I will be the one — together with our teams — responding to the decisions."

Williams explained it thusly: "I've done a number of succession training things with individuals, and it's not a dump-off, it's a clean handover and giving responsibility, decision-making."

Moore was part of the decision to allow the province to enter step two of the reopening road map two days early, which you can read about here.

The work Moore has ahead of him includes providing guidance for immunized Ontarians, something the doctors promised will come soon.

"So stay tuned and we'll have that out for you because I know people are eagerly waiting to hear some direction in that regard," said Williams.

Moore spoke about preparing the province for the "endemic state" of the pandemic that he said should begin as the province enters the fall with some of the highest immunization rates in the world.

That will be done by ensuring Ontario has robust case and contact management capacity in place to "put out any fires that start" as well as having the capacity to test for any emerging strains of COVID-19, preparing strategies for congregate settings including schools, jails and seniors homes, while restoring the normal functions of public health in Ontario, said Moore.

Success in that period will also depend on a federal testing, isolation and quarantine strategy, he said.

"We're very much looking forward to working with our federal government to strengthen that because that's the only way the virus can come back into us once we have a low endemic rate," he said. "And to me that's where we really have to focus our energies, going forward, is testing aggressively for returning travellers, identifying when they have a new variant or are positive for COVID, and isolating them so that they don't bring it back into our communities."

Asked to explain why Ontario isn't moving more rapidly to step three of the reopening, despite achieving the vaccination levels the province pegged as a benchmark for that stage, he explained that the increasing prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant has lead to increasing cases in some regions, warranting caution.

"I absolutely agree with Dr. Williams," he said. "Slow and steady cautious in the face of Delta; we don't ever want to have to go back, but only moving forward for Ontario."

Moore also took a question on the risk of myocarditis — heart inflammation — in youth after vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

"It's very important that parents understand we have a very good safety system in Canada and we're monitoring the situation very closely," he said. "We monitor for any adverse events following immunization, collect that data at a local public health agency level, aggregate it and analyze it at a provincial level, and then share it federally. At present, we're not seeing any significant signal from the mRNA vaccines."

While the province is waiting for the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to weigh in on American data, his opinion is the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the risk of myocarditis at present.

The answer demonstrated a direct and clear communication style that differs from his predecessor.

Moore also repeatedly thanked Ontarians for getting vaccinated and expressed faith in modelling data that shows Ontario could see 80 per cent of the adult population fully vaccinated, up from 76.7 per cent with one dose and 29.1 per cent with both doses today.

"Once we achieve that 80/80 the incidence of even Delta will be going down in our communities, and we'll be able to open up more fully, and more safely, very quickly," he said. "So, if you're hearing the tone of my voice, it's very positive, it's very thankful to all Ontarians who are embracing immunization as a means of protecting themselves, their families, their communities, their workplaces, and protecting the health system."

When Moore's name was announced as William's replacement, some of the harshest public critics of Ontario's chief medical officer sang his praises.

Epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman described Moore as a quantitative-driven expert who has led successful health surveillance programs in the past — something that should serve Ontario well in the endemic stage of the pandemic. Fisman also said Moore has a good understanding of the scientific evidence concerning COVID and the ability to relay that to the public — two main criticisms he'd had of Williams.

Meanwhile, Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the RNAO, who had called on Williams to be replaced, that she was "thrilled" that it was Moore who'd been selected.

With files from David Hains.

(Kieran Moore file photo by Desmond Devoy/Metroland)

 

Jessica Smith Cross

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