During a Monday session, with a legal team looking into potential options to overturn his appointment, BOH members ultimately voted unanimously to move on from any further discussions and allow Dr. Matt Strauss to begin his tenure on Tuesday.
“I commend our Board of Health in a 8-1 vote for standing up in the face of controversy, raging Twitter mobs and upholding their decision to appoint Dr. Strauss. ,” Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp told Global News in a statement.
“Conversely, I am appalled at Liberal health critic John Fraser for continuing to use Dr. Strauss as a political tool. Public Health should never be politicized. To that end, I thank the countless physicians and academics, especially those in the field of infectious disease that wrote to our Board of health in support of Dr. Strauss.”
A series of statements opposing COVID-19 lockdowns on social media in recent months were the catalyst for controversy tied to the BOH’s appointment of Strauss – approved on July 22.
The social media posts in question include an April 9 excerpt in which Strauss suggested COVID-19 lockdowns “are based on fear and coercion,” while another on Aug. 3 suggested he’d “sooner give his kids COVID-19 than a McDonald’s Happy Meal.”
The issue became contentious when Fraser called for a veto of Strauss’s appointment, suggesting he opposed “life-saving public health measures” amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.
BOH member and Coun. Amy Martin of Port Dover was one of four who also expressed concerns during a Sept. 7 BOH meeting, saying in a social media post his views on COVID were “not reflective of the leadership our communities, both Haldimand and Norfolk, are in need of.”
Martin echoed her concerns in an interview with 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton saying that there was “lot’s to dig into here” and that what’s been said “doesn’t jive” with her direction and feelings on COVID.
Chopp told Global News that recently released minutes from Strauss’ recruitment meeting included a dialogue around his social media concerns and that it’s “contrary” to statements made by some councillors that they were “not aware” of his position.
In a piece with the Maple Leaf, the Kingston-based Strauss admitted to being “skeptical” of some therapies in treating COVID-19 in addition to “non-pharmaceutical” interventions such as stay-at-home orders.
He went on to say that he “welcomes” criticism of his “science-based views” and says the “politicization” of his appointment is not “fair criticism.”
“My life’s work has been to save lives,” said Strauss.
“Any suggestion that I am ‘anti-science’ or opposed to ‘life-saving measures’ is untrue and inappropriate.”
Upon learning of Strauss’ confirmation, Ontario’s top doctor says his office will be “supportive” of the acting MOH and “provide guidance” for his new role.
In a provincial update on Tuesday, Dr. Kieran Moore affirmed Haldimand-Norfolk’s BOH has the right to appoint Strauss as an interim medical officer of health but would need provincial approval to elevate him to a permanent medical officer position.
“A permanent would need the approval of the minister (of health) as well as often a review by the chief medical officer health, and he does not have the qualifications to be a permanent,” said Moore.
The chief went on to say that he has the power to step in at anytime should any medical officer in Ontario not be adhering to “best practices.”
“If I have any concerns regarding the safety and health of that community I can step in as the chief medical officer of health, and will,” Moore said.
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