Resolution against COVID misinformation falls flat with hospital board commissioners

Identical proposal earned unanimous vote from Board of Health

Posted 10/6/21

Hospital commissioners have decided against joining with the Jefferson County Health Board on a joint resolution to declare health misinformation as a public health crisis.

A resolution taking a …

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Resolution against COVID misinformation falls flat with hospital board commissioners

Identical proposal earned unanimous vote from Board of Health

Posted

Hospital commissioners have decided against joining with the Jefferson County Health Board on a joint resolution to declare health misinformation as a public health crisis.

A resolution taking a stand against the spread of health misinformation on COVID-19 while simultaneously declaring support for public health and healthcare workers failed to find majority support during last week’s meeting of commissioners for Jefferson County Public Hospital District No. 2.

The resolution was proposed by Hospital Commissioner Kees Kolff, who helped prepare an earlier resolution on the same topic that was approved unanimously by the county health board at its last meeting.

Dr. Kolff presented a proposed resolution to the hospital board at its Sept. 22 meeting, looking for support.

He pointed to an Aug. 31 letter from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors that declared health misinformation as “a public health crisis.”

Kolff also noted an advisory from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy titled “Confronting Health Misinformation.” 

Quoting Murthy in the report, Kolff said “Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort.”

Kolff also recalled recent threats made against Public Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry after her recent mandate requiring visitors to bars and restaurants to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

“There was considerable discussion at the board of health about the threats and intimidation that Dr. Alison Berry has received,” Kolff told his fellow hospital commissioners. 

“Fortunately, from my understanding, more of that has come from Clallam County residents than Jefferson County residents. And yet, we also know that there is considerable effort by a number of people in Jefferson County to spread information that is not supported by professional experts. And because of this, the Jefferson County Board of Health adopted this resolution unanimously last week in hopes that our board will join in a joint resolution, he explained.

By passing the resolution, Kolff added that the hospital board would be doing something unique.

“We would probably be the first in the country to have two elected bodies declare health misinformation a public health crisis as well as supporting public health and health care workers in general,” Kolff said.

Others on the hospital board, however, said the resolution was worded too harshly.

They pointed to three paragraphs that called out those who were spreading falsehoods about COVID-19 and had threatened the county’s health officer.

Hospital Commissioner Marie Dressler said she preferred the board write its own resolution, and she agreed with concerns that the language of the resolution may alienate some in the community.

The three passages that were noted as problematic read:

“There are some people in our community who disagree with actions taken by Dr. Berry and believe that it is appropriate to use intimidation and threats of violence to get their way in opposing reasonable and proven public health measures.

“There are some people in our community who are discouraging vaccinations, contributing to more cases and more deaths by spreading virus and pandemic misinformation that is not supported by the valid scientific data provided by reliable professional experts.

“There are some people in our community who are vaccine hesitant for a variety of reasons, most of which are fed by misinformation campaigns and most of which can be addressed with appropriate, compassionate advice or overcome with a variety of vaccination incentives and requirements, including employment vaccination requirements and privilege restrictions.”

Responding to the criticism of the resolution, Kolff noted the impact the hospital itself has experienced due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Everything is COVID right now. We are virtually dying as a health care system under the COVID pandemic,” he said.

“It doesn’t say anything nasty, mean, angry, hostile. In fact, it was worded very carefully to not alienate people,” Kolff said.

The proposed resolution failed to find more than two votes of support, however, and commissioners then decided to have two board members write a new resolution for possible approval later.

The reaction to the resolution was decidedly different when it was passed at the Jefferson County Board of Health’s meeting the week before.

County Commissioner Greg Brotherton, a member of the health board, said he was 

“100 percent behind” the actions that Berry has taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.

For people in the community who were threatening lawsuits over the vaccination requirement for people who want to dine-in at local restaurants, he paraphrased President Biden and said, “Have at it and sue.”

Brotherton also noted how a recent article in a medical journal had been misinterpreted by locals opposed to face masks and vaccinations.

“It is extremely disappointing to see how information can be twisted,” Brotherton said.

“People love to do their own research. I’ve just about had enough of it,” he added. “we have an epidemiologist: Dr. Berry.”

“I’ve also just about had enough of comparing racial segregation to vaccine mandates,” the commissioner continued. “Which I believe are legal and mandated in all 50 states in schools already.”

Others on the board were equally exhausted with the misinformation being spouted in the community and online.

“I’m getting tired of stupid. Pretty tired of it,” said Health Board Member Sheila Westerman.

Westerman recalled her father’s service as a Marine and how it took him all over the world. That meant repeated vaccinations for Westerman as a child.

“I’ve been taking vaccines my whole life,” she said.

“I’m really dumbfounded at how rancorous this reaction to this vaccine has become. I believe that it is predominately politically motivated,” Westerman said. 

“And it just enrages me that innocent people are dying because of this,” she added.

Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour agreed.

“I have elderly people in my life very dear to me, and I have people under 12 in my life very dear to me. And this matters to me very personally,” Eisenhour said.

Comments

2 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Dage Corvish

Two weeks after the meeting. One week after publishing. What timely online posting.

Wednesday, October 6
Craig Warden

Please list who voted for and against. I assume that is public record.

Saturday, October 16