Key voice that helped shape Ontario’s response to COVID-19 pandemic steps down

One of the key voices that helped inform Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two-and-a-half years is stepping aside.

Ontario Science Advisory Table Co-Chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown has announced that he will be leaving his post to focus on his work as the dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

He will be replaced by Dr. Upton Allen, who is a longstanding member of the science table as well as the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Hospital for Sick Children.

“We want to express our sincere thanks to Prof. Adalsteinn Brown for his exceptional leadership as of one the inaugural co-chairs of the Science Advisory Table,” Vice President of Public Health Ontario Dr. Brian Schwartz said in a news release. “Over the past two years, Prof. Brown has been at the forefront of supporting the province’s response to COVID-19 by leading the development and implementation of the Modelling Consensus Table, providing exceptional leadership and communication with experts, stakeholders and the public on behalf of the table, and bringing together academics and front-line practitioners with diverse expertise to provide coordinated, practical scientific advice for decision-makers in Ontario.”

Brown was a regular participant in many of the news conferences held by the table throughout the pandemic, often using the pulpit to urge the government to introduce public health measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including the stay-at-home order adopted in April, 2021.

During his time with the table he also gained a reputation for giving particularly frank assessments of the situation Ontario was facing.

In one news conference in February, 2021 he was asked whether a modelling presentation was in face predicting “a disaster” and pulled no punches, telling a reporter “I don’t think you are missing anything.”

During another news conference in December, 2021 he warned that the coming Omicron wave would be the “the hardest wave of the pandemic” and made the case for “circuit breaker” restrictions to reduce contacts.

“Neither public health measures or vaccinations will be enough on their own to blunt the Omicron wave,” he warned at the time.

The announcement that Brown will no longer lead the science table comes just a few months after the departure of the table’s scientific director, Dr. Peter Jüni.

Brown had lead the science table since its formation in July, 2020.