Controversial new Medical Officer of Health confirmed in Haldimand-Norfolk

The board of health for Haldimand and Norfolk counties has confirmed the appointment of it’s new Acting Medical Officer of Health, despite the controversy that surrounds him.

The board held a meeting Monday night to make the confirmation and discuss the issues around Dr. Matt Strauss, like his highly critical views on lockdowns as public health measures to fight COVID-19.

Social media posts from the assistant professor at Queens University, which expressed these opinions, led to calls for his removal as the top doctor in Haldimand and Norfolk.

"It’s essential in the public health debate to keep an open mind and look at things through different perspectives,” said Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp.

Tweets from Dr. Strauss, like one at the end of August that read “live free or die," have some concerned over the direction he will take for the area.

"The callous regard for the seriousness of this disease is what gives me pause," said Jacob Shelly, a health ethics, law and policy professor at Western University. "I would like Dr. Strauss to comment on his views on Florida. I would still like to know if he thinks De Santis is a hero for taking that approach because lockdowns maybe are not the solution but there is a lot of evidence that opening up freely without restrictions hasn't worked."

“The local medical officer of health does not have the authority to overturn provincial public health orders,” said Chopp. “So how I would reassure my own constituents, if the province decided to issue another lockdown or mask mandate, is that all those things would apply equally here in Haldimand and Norfolk counties.”

After the lengthy closed session, which included input from legal counsel, the appointment of Dr. Strauss passed eight to one.

Chopp says she is also not convinced lockdowns are an effective public health policy and welcomes Dr. Strauss and his view.

“I look forward to someone with Dr. Strauss’ background to be there around the table with the other 34 Medical Officers of Health and, in a fact-based manner, challenge some of those assumptions,” she said.

Dr. Strauss officially assumes the role Tuesday morning.

He was expected to address Norfolk County council to explain his vision and the reasons behind the controversial tweets but declined the opportunity until next week.

In a self-published post, Dr. Strauss stated he has used social media to criticize government policies he disagrees, at times using sarcasm or eye-catching analogies. He says in his new office he won't do this anymore.

Dr. Strauss also stated if there is a disagreement with government policy in his new role it will be handled professionally and with respect to the authority of the province.

On Tuesday, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, made it clear the province will step in if there's an issue.

"If I have any concerns regarding safety and health of that community, I can step in as the Chief Medical Officer of Health and will," he said.

Dr. Strauss has repeatedly stated he is pro-vaccine, with his critics saying he has the ability to bring the unvaccinated crowd on board.

"I would like to see Dr. Strauss speak to those who are supporting him, who are maybe ideologically aligned with his views on anti-lockdown but who are also anti-vax passport and anti-mask, because those things we may need in the interim to address COVID," Shelly said.