Haldimand-Norfolk to retain new acting medical officer of health despite controversial social media comments

Ontario’s top public health official has said he has no plans to veto the appointment of the new acting medical officer of health for Haldimand-Norfolk despite public outcry over the Social media posts criticizing the public health measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.

Dr Matthew Strauss has come under fire in recent days for dozens of social media posts opposing the lockdowns and appearing to express a preference for the approach taken in Florida, where authorities have avoided mask warrants and others. measures used elsewhere to limit the transmission of COVID-19.

But on Monday evening, the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health voted 8-1 to keep Strauss as acting medical officer of health following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting that was mostly held behind closed doors.

Asked about the decision on Tuesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore said Strauss “does not have the qualifications” to become permanent, but he said he “will support” him as much. as possible as he will assume the top public health job on a temporary basis.

“He is only an interim and remains an interim”, he insisted. “It can’t be permanent. A permanent would need the approval of the Minister as well as a review by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and does not have the qualifications to be permanent.

Strauss works as an assistant professor of medicine at Queen’s University, but has also been a vocal critic of lockdowns and other public health measures on Twitter.

In April, as the third wave of the pandemic worsened in Ontario, he tweeted, “If you think the lockdowns are working, don’t hesitate to lock yourself in indefinitely. “

Then on August 29, with the number of cases rising again in Ontario, he tweeted “live free or die”.

Last week, after news of his appointment became public, the Liberals and NDP called on Health Minister Christine Elliot to block Strauss’s appointment. However, the minister said she was only responsible “for approving the appointment of full-time medical officers of health, not acting medical officers of health.”

During Monday’s meeting, Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt called the social media posts “edgy” but said “everyone around the table” would have similar concerns as to “how the closures happened” in Ontario.

Hewitt also said Strauss has made it clear that he supports the vaccination.

For his part, Moore said his office “will provide advice and support” to Strauss “as he may be new to outbreak management and vaccination strategy”.

But he said he would “also monitor adherence to best practices in this region” and reserves the right to intervene if necessary.

“If you have any concerns about the safety and health of this community, I can step in as the Chief Medical Officer of Health and I will,” he said.