Make no mistake, the decision being introduced earlier than the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors tomorrow by First District Supervisor Rex Bohn does nothing however additional politicize Humboldt County’s COVID-19 response, undermining our native well being officer and exerting undue strain on native faculty districts within the course of.
Bohn has asked the board to contemplate approving the “Wholesome Communities Resolution,” which arose final 12 months out of a gathering of conservative “North state leaders” and has since been adopted by a handful of counties from Lassen to Orange. The decision quantities to little greater than an announcement of opposition to the state’s tiered county-by-county strategy to COVID-19 restrictions, whereas additionally urging faculty districts “to securely open all colleges as quickly as attainable … with out additional delay.”
Not solely is the decision legally toothless — the facility to concern and implement well being orders rests with the state of California and the native well being officer, and no county decision goes to alter that — but it surely’s additionally harmful, hypocritical and inherently political. It additionally comes within the midst of an unprecedented native case surge and seems in direct battle with Well being Officer Ian Hoffman’s strategy to limiting COVID-19’s unfold in Humboldt County.
Thursday, nearly 24 hours earlier than the county posted Bohn’s agenda merchandise for public evaluation and because the county was setting one other single-week report for brand new COVID-19 instances (270), a reporter asked Hoffman concerning the prospect of deviating from the state’s tiered strategy to native restrictions and his reply was unequivocal.
“I don’t consider that we ought to be doing something otherwise than the state’s orders,” Hoffman mentioned.
Moments later, a reporter identified that whereas Humboldt stays within the state’s pink “substantial” threat tier, native knowledge signifies it ought to be within the state’s most restrictive purple tier and requested whether or not Hoffman would use his authority to implement extra restrictive measures. Hoffman mentioned he wouldn’t deviate from the state’s framework and pressured the significance of native leaders delivering a “robust, unified” message that the county’s numbers “look purple” and asking residents to comply with the rules.
Mere hours later, Bohn’s proposed decision posted, positing that Humboldt and its residents are ill-suited for the state’s “one-size-fits-all” strategy and ought to be allowed to tailor its response to “geographically separate areas, akin to totally different zip codes.” Ignoring for a second the inherent ridiculousness of attempting to manage a virus that’s quickly spreading all through the county with a hodge-podge of restrictions various by zip code — and the truth that a brand new state order now mandates that each one counties are basically sharing hospital capability, which means we’re very a lot all on this collectively — let’s think about the timing of Bohn’s proposed decision.
His counterparts in different components of the state introduced this ahead almost two months in the past, so why’d Bohn wait till now? It’s actually not as a result of our native case numbers have improved. It’s fairly the alternative. Humboldt County had confirmed about 700 instances as of mid-November with a test-positivity fee of about 3.5 %. Within the two months since, it has confirmed greater than 1,300 new instances with a test-positivity fee that’s doubled and stays on the rise. No, what’s modified is the politics of the second.
Again in November, Theresa Frankovich was nonetheless serving as Humboldt County’s well being officer, guiding the county’s COVID-19 response with a powerful and trusted voice, and Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell was chairing the board of supervisors, frequently espousing the significance of trusting science and medical professionals when making public well being selections. Now, Humboldt has Hoffman, a new health officer nonetheless looking for his footing within the place and dealing for a board that simply selected him from a area of 18 candidates, and newly sworn in Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell, who has appeared much more skeptical of COVID-19 restrictions than her predecessor. The newfound absence of two voices more likely to have met Bohn’s proposed decision with robust opposition adjustments the political calculus of whether or not to deliver it ahead.
However what’s the difficulty in politicizing a pandemic response and why shouldn’t elected politicians be allowed to weigh in? Honest questions.
To take a look at the potential issues with politicizing Humboldt County’s COVID-19 response, let’s discuss faculty districts and the proposed decision’s urging colleges to “safely” reopen “with out additional delay.” At the start, each faculty district in Humboldt County has the facility to open in-class instruction tomorrow, if its faculty board selected to take action. The notion that some state order has prohibited native colleges from re-opening is solely not true. And anybody who thinks native superintendents and faculty board members don’t really feel intense strain to get youngsters again into lecture rooms merely hasn’t been watching faculty board conferences. Everybody desires youngsters again at school. The issue is that democratically elected faculty board members in most of Humboldt County’s 30 districts have determined it isn’t but protected to take action.
It’s not misplaced on us that there’s a particular model of hypocrisy inherent within the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ contemplating a decision ostensibly within the identify of native management whereas additionally pressuring the native officers under them to bend to their will.
However that is greater than a philosophical drawback.
As we’ve seen, a group’s success in limiting COVID-19’s unfold is a matter of collective will — the extent to which every of its members is keen to comply with the steering dictated by science and well being officers and sacrifice for the communal good. Having the county’s preeminent governing physique passing a decision in open defiance of that steering — whereas legally toothless — would undoubtedly have cascading impacts.
It could give the COVID hoaxers yet another factor to level to when defiantly getting into a public house with no masks. It could make that enterprise proprietor working exterior the rules really feel justified in disregarding that state well being order. And, maybe most troubling, it might trigger our native well being officer — employed by this very board simply weeks in the past — to contemplate the political ramifications of any resolution he’s contemplating whereas equally inflicting faculty board members — lots of whom have aspirations to increased workplace — to contemplate extra than simply the schooling of scholars and the well being and security of everybody who steps on campus when deciding the best way to navigate the approaching months of COVID-19.
Requested concerning the proposed decision by the Misplaced Coast Outpost, Bohn said: “It’s simply an concept to present us a bit bit extra mobility for our well being officer, and to let people know down south that we’re a bit totally different.”
The issue is that this decision actually is not going to give our native well being officer any extra mobility — it simply dangers mobilizing politics into his and native faculty boards’ selections. And as to the notion that we’re totally different, effectively, that is still to be seen.
Los Angeles County is present shedding a resident each eight minutes to COVID-19, in accordance with information experiences, as hospitals overflow and ambulance firms have instructed workers to solely deliver those that could be saved to the hospital and to depart others to die at residence. Humboldt County isn’t there. Not but, anyway. However hospital workers raised the alarm final month in interviews with the Journal, saying they’re seeing extra critically unwell sufferers than ever earlier than. Our COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising and our caseload is spiking with the total affect of vacation journey and gatherings not but felt, indicating the very worst is but to return.
So is now the time to inject politics into our public well being selections? Do we would like the doctor with a masters diploma in public well being trying over his shoulder to a board of politicians earlier than deciding what’s locally’s finest curiosity? Do we would like faculty board members who know their districts finest considering the political ramifications of re-opening or simply deciding what’s finest for youths and workers?
We predict the solutions to those questions are manifestly clear and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors wants to remain in its lane, leaving well being orders and pointers to the general public well being professionals who’ve made them their lives’ work.