TORONTO -- The Ontario government has confirmed that the medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington will be the province’s next top doctor.

On May 30, the Ontario Government confirmed that Dr. Kieran Moore will be appointed as Ontario’s new chief medical officer of health, replacing Dr. David Williams.

The statement lauds Dr. Moore for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic within his public health unit, stating that “under Dr. Moore’s leadership, the public health region has taken a proactive stance against COVID-19 and the morbidity and mortality rates remain low with limited impacts of the virus on the region’s hospitals. In addition, there have been no deaths or any major outbreaks in long-term care or high-risk retirement homes. The region has also reached the key milestone of administering first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 50 per cent of the adult population as of May 17, 2021.”

The appointment comes as the province comes out of a COVID-19 third wave and gears up to reopen this summer. The provincial stay-at-home order is set to expire on June 2 and will be followed by the gradual lifting of public health restrictions outlined in Ontario’s three-step plan.

Moore, who is also a member of the vaccine distribution task force, will take the lead in the province’s pandemic response that has the goal of preventing another pandemic wave. It will mainly focus on fully vaccinating all Ontarians by the end of the summer. Earlier this week, the Ford government released its second dose strategy, shortening the interval between two doses of a vaccine.

Williams has led the province’s public health system since 2016. He planned to step down from his role in February, but the government asked him to postpone his retirement and reappointed him to the position in November.

He was set to stay until Sept. 1, but the province said Williams will now retire on June 25.

Williams has been criticized for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many leaders in the medical community calling for his dismissal.

Despite the criticism, Premier Doug had defended his chief medical officer of health.

“The easy thing for Dr. Williams to do would have been to wash your hands and say, ‘I don’t need this anymore,’ but he is not built that way. He is a man of integrity, a man of honesty and he is passionate about helping the people of Ontario,” Ford said in November.

“I can assure you that Dr. Williams doesn’t need the few extra dollars from the next seven months, I am sure he would rather be up at a cottage somewhere, but this is what this man is made of, and I think he is incredible,” Ford continued.

However, the recent issue of reopening schools across the province finds Ford and Williams not on the same page. With cases declining, there have been growing calls for the provincial government to let students return to classrooms as school closures are taking a toll on their health. In-person learning has been halted since mid-April.

Even though Williams has said that schools can be reopened safely, the premier sought further input on the issue from dozens of health experts and education stakeholders.

The province has not made a final decision on the matter.

Before taking on the top public health position, Williams was the medical officer of health for Thunder Bay. He held the position from October 2011 to June 2015.

When it was announced in November that he was delaying his retirement, Williams said he agreed to stay for a few more months as it was the responsible thing to do, given the health crisis the province was facing.

Williams added that whoever the province would pick as his successor would inherit a much better situation when he leaves the position.

“Perhaps by the spring and into the summer, we may be out of the worst of it with vaccines and I can hand things over in a less tumultuous state to a successor,” Williams said.

- With files from Colin D'Mello and Chris Fox