Dr. Peter Juni, Scientific Director of the Ontario Science Table, is stepping down

He said he would be heartbroken to leave, especially because of what Ontarians have accomplished together during the pandemic.

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Dr. Peter Juni, a physician and epidemiologist who has become one of Ontario’s best-known voices on the pandemic, is stepping down as Scientific Director of the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

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The Swiss-born Juni, who works as director of the Center for Applied Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, is leaving to take on a new role at Oxford University.

From July 2020, Juni served as Scientific Director of the Scientific Table, a volunteer group of epidemiologists, physicians and researchers who advise the provincial government on its pandemic policy based on data and models. .

This relationship has not always been harmonious. Juni is among those who have spoken out when policies have gone against advice.

He recently said he was surprised to learn the province was dropping mask mandates in most settings, saying he thought it was too soon. Masks will no longer be required in schools, businesses and most other places – except for health care, public transport and other high-risk settings – from Monday.

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This week the science table released its latest modeling suggesting that hospitalizations and cases are starting to rise and there will likely be a smaller surge in the coming weeks. Even as most pandemic restrictions end, Juni is among those warning that the pandemic is not over. He encouraged Ontario residents to continue wearing masks in crowded indoor situations and to limit contact.

In an interview, Juni, 55, said the move offered an exciting challenge and allowed her family to be closer to their two oldest children, who are in Switzerland. But he said he would be heartbroken to leave, especially because of what Ontarians have accomplished together during the pandemic.

“We did pretty well. I really mean all of us. It’s largely because people have finally realized how important solidarity is and it’s wonderful.

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The work has not always been easy. At some point in 2021, as the B117 wave hit Ontario hard, Juni said he considered resigning from his position, thinking he was not up to it. Among the things that concerned him were the continued lack of sufficient paid sick leave for many workers and restrictions such as the closure of playgrounds that risked doing more harm than good.

“It was a tough time professionally.”

Juni, who is also an internal medicine doctor, has spent hours throughout the pandemic doing media interviews, including appearing regularly on phone talk shows. It was important, he said, “to help people understand in this terribly confusing situation what was really going on.”

It made him a target, however. At one point, he and his family left their home for safety after being the target of hate messages.

Juni said he will step down from the role later this spring. And he thinks the science table will continue to play an important role for the foreseeable future.

“Hopefully we won’t need it forever.”

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