A small group of native pandemic deniers and anti-vaxxers upped longstanding efforts to take away members of the Lincoln County Well being Board unsympathetic to their views.
Led by Trego resident Catherine Kahle, the group picketed outdoors of the Lincoln County Courthouse advanced Could 5 forward of a scheduled assembly with commissioners. Their calls for have been easy: Purge Jan Ivers and Jim Seifert from the county well being board.
“There may be nothing now stopping you doing what is correct for the folks,” Kahle stated, citing new legal guidelines signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte giving native elected officers extra management over choices made by well being boards.
“You now oversee the well being board,” she stated. “The folks shouldn’t need to resort to authorized reduction when it’s in your energy to make issues proper. It’s time to reorganize the well being board as we requested six months in the past.”
Though Kahle and her compatriots repeatedly expressed displeasure with the well being board’s — and county well being officer’s — stance on coronavirus vaccines, the requires Ivers’ and Seifert’s ouster hinged on perceived makes an attempt to restrict and stymie public remark.
Kahle cited previous cases the place she was muted or minimize off by Ivers throughout contentious well being board conferences in the course of the peak of the pandemic. Extra not too long ago, the well being board held a piece session in Libby sans Zoom. The board, like different native authorities entities, adopted the favored videoconferencing software program final 12 months for public involvement when pandemic restrictions took maintain.
Dropping Zoom for work classes restricted residents’ means to take part, Kahle stated. A written assertion she submitted to the board in lieu of public remark was not learn aloud as she had requested, she stated.
Transient point out of the letter, later connected to the board’s assembly minutes, was made by Seifert at an April gathering.
“I simply need to go on file to say that if anybody researches all of her allegations on that letter they are going to discover most of them false,” he stated earlier than voting with the bulk to approve the minutes and place the connected feedback, together with the letter, into the file.
Kahle described it as a rant, one meant to discourage public remark.
“This was a deliberate try to not solely silence me, however each citizen of Lincoln County who needs to take part,” Kahle stated.
Commissioners agreed to look into the matter, notably the transfer away from Zoom for the work session. However Josh Letcher (D-3), a Eureka space resident who represents commissioners on the board and attended the March work session, argued that Kahle’s grievances have been imprecise.
All three Eureka space representatives drove to Libby to attend in-person, he stated. Kahle’s letter was connected to the minutes as submitted.
“We have been having a working assembly the place we weren’t making any resolution. I believed it could be finest, as a substitute of attempting to mess with Zoom, to have an in-person assembly,” he stated. “It could seem like it was accomplished deliberately, however all three board members from Eureka knew we have been coming down.”
Letcher’s colleagues additionally pushed again on Kahle’s allegations that that they had accomplished nothing in response to the group’s criticisms. County Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2) pointed to the parliamentary process coaching the group had undergone within the months because the pandemic started and alluded to the commissioners’ advocating for the brand new legal guidelines to offer them elevated management over the well being board.
And he acknowledged that commissioners appointed a brand new member primarily based on the preferences of Kahle and her cohorts earlier this 12 months.
“You even have the individual on the well being board from Eureka that you just requested for — we did that,” he stated. “We even have instituted board coaching, particular coaching, and we’re going to comply with that up this month with some further coaching. I understand that is probably not sufficient, however we’ve got no sat idly by.”
When former well being board member George Jamison stepped down final 12 months to make approach for a north Lincoln County resident, the panel advisable Jeff Peterson. Commissioners handed over Peterson, who boasted a resume heavy in educational work and had helped the county well being division retool its communications technique for the pandemic, for Scott Bernhard.
Bernhard, a city councilor in Eureka, has downplayed the dangers related to COVID-19, the illness brought on by the coronavirus, at the same time as its loss of life toll approached 500,000 within the U.S. He questioned the proficiency of masks and criticized face protecting necessities. Bernhard is skeptical of the vaccines as properly, telling The Western Information earlier this 12 months that he wouldn’t advocate “to anyone that they get vaccinated.”
Kahle sought to make use of the convoluted course of main as much as Bernhard’s ascension as extra proof of tyranny on the well being board. She repeated a false declare that Ivers, who serves as chair, unilaterally torpedoed Bernhard’s candidacy.
Whereas the method the board used to whittle the candidates down to 2 finalists was casual, just one member — Letcher — listed Bernhard as a choice.
Peterson and one other candidate, Patricia Kincheloe, loved widespread help, with Peterson finally getting chosen.
It was not the one debunked or inaccurate declare Kahle repeated earlier than commissioners Could 5. The pandemic, she informed commissioners, had been extended by intentional misdiagnosis of instances.
She described the vaccine, which she has beforehand claimed will alter recipients’ DNA, as a “gene remedy therapy” and criticized the well being board for selling it. Docs, she falsely claimed, remained at midnight about its contents.
Letcher disagreed, noting that he, Bernhard and Eureka consultant Debra Armstrong all expressed reservations about vaccination. County Commissioner Mark Peck (D-1) maintained that the choice to get vaccinated was as much as residents.
“For those who’re not comfy, I encourage you to not take it,” Peck stated. “However these are particular person decisions.”
So far, about 5,261 residents of Lincoln County are vaccinated. One other 6,645 have acquired their first dose, in keeping with the state.
Kahle advisable officers promote ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, in addition to good diet, train and nutritional vitamins, to deal with the sickness she believes is overwrought. The Nationwide Institutes for Well being concluded in November that hydroxychloroquine supplied no profit to hospitalized COVID-19 sufferers. The FDA strongly warned in opposition to folks utilizing Ivermectin for COVID-19 and something aside from what a physician would possibly prescribe it for — usually, circumstances brought on by parasitic worms.
The FDA has reported a number of cases the place sufferers required care after self-medicating with ivermectin meant for horses.
Kahle’s husband, Ed Kahle, alleged that the Middle for Asbestos Associated Illness, the place the county’s well being officer serves as CEO, would possibly view COVID-19 as a moneymaking scheme as the results of the Libby Superfund web site ebb.
“I believe you’re moving into the realm of the stuff you’re accusing different folks of with that,” cautioned Peck, who has labored on the asbestos situation in Libby for years.
As for the group’s calls for, commissioners took no fast motion aside from to say they’d look into the general public comment-related allegations. Whereas commissioners might take away Ivers — they appointed her to the well being board as an at-large member — Seifert represents Troy, Bennett stated.
On a city-county well being board, commissioners have been restricted in eradicating a municipal-appointed member, he stated.