Winston Middle School’s new counselor resigned because she didn’t feel safe returning to work — and she’s not alone.

Several staff members, parents and community members filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Education because they believe the Winston-Dillard School District is not following the state guidelines for opening to in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it was inappropriate to have us go back in school and my health and safety are more important than my job, so I resigned,” the school counselor said. She added that she was aware that it was a privilege for her to do so and knew other staff members were frustrated, but didn’t have the financial opportunity to make the choice and may have had stronger ties to the community.

The counselor agreed to speak to The News-Review on condition of anonymity, for fear that any public statements may impact opportunities for future employment at another school district.

The middle school opened its doors to on-site instruction on Monday. Douglas High School was set to have a freshman orientation on Thursday, but according to building union representative Kimberly Mincher, orientation was canceled after at least 10 staff members called in sick.

Mincher also said that it’s likely that staff members plan to be sick Monday, when the school is set to start in-person education.

“We all want to return to in-person learning,” Mincher said, but added that they want to do this safely and want the health metrics to be enforced for their safety, their family’s safety and the safety of the students.

Winston-Dillard Superintendent Kevin Miller did not respond to two phone calls and an email from The News-Review asking for clarification on why the school was reopening.

He did write a lengthy post on Facebook on Saturday afternoon, which stated in part, “ODE seems to believe that if everyone stays home, everyone is safe. Sadly, this is a misperception probably related to their unfamiliarity with the poverty communities of Douglas County. Also, sadly, ODE staff probably couldn’t even find Douglas county without a GPS so I doubt there will be much improvement in their understanding of this area in the near future. In our community, we have a number of students that do not have nice clean, warm, quiet ‘homes’ (if they have homes at all) that they can ‘stay home in’ to study and access their education or other needed services. These students are the most vulnerable and underserved students that come from fractured families. These fractured families are often at least partially caused by abuse issues (substance and other forms) often related to living in poverty. These students do not necessarily have a voice nor much of a choice about where they stay during the day when not in school. Our schools truly are the best places they can be. Not only do we provide a warm, safe, caring place with food service. We also provide or help provide needed services such as mental and physical health services. Without our schools these students go without as they have been doing for the past 6 months. ODE likes to discuss the topic of Equity, perhaps someone from ODE could explain how these students are being treated equitably under the current reopening model.”

During a Sept. 9 meeting, the Winston-Dillard school board voted to bring fourth through sixth grade back on Sept. 21, seventh and eighth grade on Sept. 28 and the high school on Oct. 5.

However, Lookingglass Elementary School was open to in-person education for grades K-6 on Sept. 14.

Peter Rudy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education, said the reopening metrics are to be assessed on a school basis, not a district basis. Even though other schools in the district were open, the middle and high school should remain closed until the metrics are met.

When Winston Middle School reopened on Monday, Douglas County had 22.3 cases per 100,000 people for the last seven days. In order to start on-site education that number would have to be at or below 10 per 100,000 for three consecutive seven-day periods.

During Tuesday’s Facebook Live Q&A with Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, he said he will give advice to school boards but the ultimate decision is up to the school board.

“We’re like the weathermen,” he said. “We go ahead and figure out how much rain came down, we deal with the high and low temperatures, tell you about the storm that’s coming. We predict the weather for tomorrow, but it’s really up to the people involved whether they still want to have their wedding outdoors.

“The weatherman doesn’t say ‘oh, you can’t have your wedding outdoors because it may rain,’ it’s still your decision. And similarly with this, public health collects data, we interpret the data, if people have questions we think about the data, but the decision gets made by the school board. The decision to open or not open is a school board’s decision.”

Dannenhoffer also reiterated that while the case rate is up in Douglas County, it is still relatively low in comparison with state averages and counties of comparable size.

Miller wrote on Facebook, “I certainly do not want to see anyone get sick but we are already most certainly losing our most vulnerable and underserved children. I find this extremely frustrating and hope we can do better by our students, staff and families in the very near future.”

While the original Ready Schools, Safe Learners shows several goals each school has to meet in order to reopen, the one that matters in September is the cases per 100,000. The Oregon Department of Education eliminated test positivity as a factor for reopening metrics for the month of September due to the impact of wildfires on testing.

“At this time the test positivity metric will return in October,” Rudy said. “However, the metrics will be periodically reviewed by the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education through a review of data from Oregon schools, other states, research and guidance from the federal level. These reviews may provide future updates to the metrics.”

Douglas County has not met the reopening metrics for all grades for the past week. There are some exceptions to grades and courses that can start or continue classes despite rising COVID-19 cases.

Oregon Department of Education stated the only open complaint in Douglas County was with the South Umpqua School District. A call to provide technical assistance is scheduled for later this week to bring the district into compliance.

When asked why there were no records of the formal complaints filed against Winston-Dillard School District at the state offices, Rudy said he would check with legal affairs.

The News-Review received confirmation notices of complaints that were filed with the Oregon Department of Education against Winston-Dillard School District from people who filed them.

The News-Review has requested public records of all formal complaints filed against school districts in Oregon for the 2020-2021 school year, but has not yet received the information.

Other school districts throughout the county have had to halt going back to in-person education as the case numbers began to rise. Douglas County has not met the state metrics for the past two weeks, which means any school that opened after Sept. 20 would violate the state guidelines.

North Douglas Superintendent Terry Bennett wrote, “The guidance from the Oregon Department of Education is difficult to understand and with constantly changing infection numbers in the county, it is no wonder there is confusion, but here’s what we know today: For our students in grades 4th-12th to begin in-person learning and end Comprehensive Distance Learning, Douglas County’s cases per 100,000 need to be 10 or below for three consecutive weeks.”

North Douglas, Yoncalla, Elkton, Oakland, Glide and Riddle all had to postpone their in-person starts to the school year.

In Glide, the news was not well received as the school district had decided to start in-person learning, but had to delay due to the fires.

“We appealed and protested the ruling because we did meet the metrics before the wildfire hit us and we would have been able to open K-12 if not for the emergency closure,” a statement by the district read. “We are being penalized because we had a wildfire??? This is ridiculous and makes no sense.

“In their ruling regarding the metrics, we must have physically opened the doors and had kids in school to use the metrics at the time that would have allowed us to open K-12.”

Glide will be open for in-person instruction for kindergarten through third grade and seventh through 12th grade. Students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade will participate in distance learning.

Guidance released by the state education department on Sept. 24 does provide the local health authority with more control over when to close schools that have already reopened.

School districts that do not follow state guidance will first receive technical assistance from the Department of Education, however the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can enforce the state guidance. Schools may also be fined for not following the guidance.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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Mike

Yesterday, Douglas County Commissioners published their guidance on testing of school children who’ve been in direct contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus. It is listed under the section (below link) titled, “When there is a case in a school, who needs to quarantine?” Their answer is, “When there is a case, those who have close and direct contact are asked to quarantine. That would include other students, the teachers and the aides in the room.” Testing is not recommended.

http://douglaspublichealthnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Frequently-Asked-Questions-DPHN-October-1.pdf

This is NOT the guidance from the CDC. According to the CDC’s for K-12 School Administrators for SARS-CoV-2 Testing (below link), any person in close contact with an infected person should be tested. The exact quote is, “Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission of the virus, it is important that contacts of students or staff with COVID-19 be quickly identified and tested.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/k-12-testing.html

Discouraging people who’ve been in direct contact with an infected person from being tested probably explains why Douglas County is the 7th lowest county in Oregon for per capita testing and Oregon is the 3rd lowest state in the U.S. for per capita testing.

Concerned Parent

The first part of this story about the Winston/Dillard teacher's calling in sick because of safety concerns is infuriating. Most of us are back at our jobs, some with minimum restrictions (masks, safety procedures etc.) and some in masks ALL day long. It sucks, but it's our job and "we" follow the rules, even if we disagree. Yes, teaching has always been an underappreciated job, but the one year that "they" were going to be appreciated more than ever, they call in sick?

Our kid's need to be in school, we have all seen the "stats" on young healthy kids getting the virus, it's basically nill. My question is, does teacher pay get frozen and we get our tax money back until it's "deemed" safe? Seems to me we are paying for full service, and the State and a handful of Douglas teacher's want to give us discounted service.

There is no way to be perfectly safe, maybe staff with pre-existing conditions may never be able to return safely to campus. But there has to be some motivated teacher's that are willing to be as safe as possible and go to work.

NJ

I also had questions for Commissioner Boice after reading his comments in yesterday's article - link: http://www.nrtoday.com/news/health/coronavirus/sutherlin-primary-school-student-tests-positive-for-covid-19/article_24ea3e5d-1706-59d1-a8c1-9f74bbea8d6b.html .

My questions were more along the lines of who is/are "local public health"? Realizing that Mr. Boice may not ever return to online comments, I contacted Douglas Public Health Network and reached out for information on "local public health". Information given was that there is one - one local doctor seemingly making decisions regarding State metrics and safety during the pandemic.

It seems appropriate that decisions made to open public schools would fall to a longtime (and I'm sure very respected) pediatrician in Roseburg, but what I expected was to be informed that more than one person made up 'local public health'.

I suppose my next inquiry would be to ask Dr. Dannenhoffer is he consults with other local doctors, and/or the State health officers before making decisions regarding school openings, and other things such as being surprised early last summer when I arrived at an Evergreen clinic to be told by the receptionist that masks weren't required. She stated that local public health and "everyone" had decided that Covid-19 had been around forever, everyone had already had it and seemingly it was no threat to anyone any further.

And here we are with an uptick in cases. After the information I could ferret out, I'd suggest Douglas County just simply follow the mandates, guidelines and metrics the State has determined in order to not succumb to a deadly virus. Wouldn't that be most prudent avenue to protect our kids, families, friends?

Mike

If you listen to the below linked radio station interview with Commissioner Boice, you will hear him repeatedly say Douglas County (Commissioners) contracted with the state to be the local public health agency which he argues gives him the authority to ignore state imposed coronavirus restrictions.

https://kqennewsradio.com/wp-content/uploads/IDC-8-26-20.mp3

NJ

mike, So not a Commission decision but one person, Chris Boice. What a slippery slope when you declare you're the sole decider of who gets to live or die. In this case, it seems to have been poor judgement.

mworden

NJ, you're asking good questions that many other people may be wondering about. Dr. Dannenhoffer has addressed some of them on his bi-weekly live townhall meeting on the DPHN facebook page. It's a live Q&A session every Tuesday and Friday at 6 pm. He has stated that he is not the person who makes decisions about schools opening and that he is in frequent, sometimes daily, contact with state health authorities, other experts and the governor's office. For details about the process it would be best to tune into one of those sessions. He addresses the issue regularly. It would be wrong for me to try to quote him from memory and that's why I regularly refer people to those sessions.

It was not Dr. Dannenhoffer or local public health who made the decisions at Evergreen. It was Evergreen's director Dr. John Powell. You can find articles written by him on the subject in the Opinion section of this newspaper under the heading "Guest Columns" and on Evergreen's website. I am a patient at Evergreen and did not approve of Dr. Powell's approach. I have had several discussions with staff at Evergreen on the subject and registered my disagreement with Dr. Powell's approach.

For years, Douglas County Public Health operated under the auspices of county government. About 5 years ago, the county jettisoned public health for reasons varying from political positions of the commissioners to decreases in timber revenues used to fund county government. Public health is now run by a combination of non-profit and private organizations. You can get more info on the DPHN website. In my opinion, we are very lucky to have Dr. Dannenhoffer as our public health physician. He is much more than a local small town pediatrician. He is a highly qualified physician, administrator and scholar who has demonstrated willingness to butt heads (and win) against "the powers that be."

NJ

mworden, thank you much for your information. For those of us who refuse to give up privacy to FB, I'm not a user nor a fan of it, but it's good to know Dr. Dannenhoffer does reach out with information. Do know that my intent was not to disparage the Dr. in any way, only that he is listed as our county's public health officer at DPHN. I don't know the Dr. nor have I had the need of a pediatrician for 38 years. He and those listed as the BOD appear to me, to be those who would make the decisions regarding public health. Dr. John Powell would be a wholly different discussion between us. I'm still at a loss to understanding who made the decision to open public schools when the county did not meet the state metrics for doing so. It seems a fool's errand to allow politics to put public health at risk in our county.

Mike

According to Commissioner Boice, Douglas County IS the public health authority, NOT non-profit and private organizations. Commissioner Boice explains this at approximately 5:50 of the below link to his radio station interview. I quote Commissioner Boice:

“The County is the public health authority. We have a contract with the state of Oregon to provide public health services to the people in Douglas County. We certainly have the ability to terminate that contract and let the state be the public health authority”

mworden, is this your understanding?

https://kqennewsradio.com/wp-content/uploads/IDC-8-26-20.mp3

mworden

Mike, 5-6 years ago, Commissioner Tim Freeman spearheaded an effort to unload the health department from county government. To be fair, the county used to be rich in timber revenues and that is no longer true. Many departments were trimmed or closed. There were also political considerations having to do with the provision of health care. Tim hired his friend MeI Cheney to investigate health department services. In a report of several pages, Mel used anonymous sources to allege the then health department was not working. He was paid $15,000 for this anonymously sourced recommendation that the health department no longer be a direct part of county government. This is what happened next...

"The result of this report, and the hard work of public health leaders in the community, was the decentralization of public health from the county and the establishment of a 501(c)3 non-profit known as Douglas Public Health Network in the fall of 2015. Douglas Public Health Network (DPHN), operating as a consortium of both for profit business and non-profit organizations, is a new way to provide public health services. While the county retains public health authority, Douglas Public Health Network and its affiliated non-governmental organizations provide the services. The majority of services are provided directly by the participating organizations:

Umpqua Community Action Network (UCAN) took over the Women, Infant and Children’s program and provides nurse visiting services.

Umpqua Community Health Center (UCHC) provides immunization services, women’s reproductive health, family planning and sexually transmitted disease (STD) and school based health services

ADAPT provides adult and school based mental health services

DPHN itself contracted with the county to take over the Communicable Disease, Emergency Preparedness, and Tobacco Prevention and Education (TPEP) programs. DPHN is also involved with specialized programs focusing on specific topics such as public health modernization, prescription drug overdose prevention, and oral health.

DPHN is managed by a board of directors with Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer serving as Executive Director/Public Health Administrator overseeing an eight person staff."

------

Covid is a communicable disease and that means it is the responsibility of Dr. Dannenhoffer and DPHN in Douglas County to track it and report on it. Commissioner Freeman is on the DPHN board of directors, but he is one member of a large and accomplished board and he is not Dr. D's direct supervisor.

The state contracts with the county to be the public health authority and the county contracts with DPHN to provide those services. The county does not directly provide the services itself. I used to be part of an organization that contracted with the county to provide legislatively mandated services. We had commissioners on our board of directors, but we did not work for the county, they did not supervise us, they did not tell us what to do. They worked hand in hand with us to make sure services were available. Along with a rather large group of community stake-holders, they helped set policies for which services would be prioritized and funded in coming years. They gave us money they received from the feds and state for those specific services and left it up to us to provide the services. The money funneled from the state to the county to the non-profit agency I was part of. The state did on-site evaluations to make sure we were providing the service adequately and an annual audit was required to insure that funds and equipment were being used properly. Those evaluations and audits were provided to the commissioners for review. The commissioners and county budget committee had the option of refusing to provide funds for following years if they were dissatisfied with us, our services or our audit. The county had the right to tell the state they no longer wanted to be the conduit for passing funds from the state to our non-profit.

I think that's what Chris Boice is talking about. The state has contracted with the county to act as the public health authority. The county does not provide direct health services. The county contracts with DPHN to provide those services.

Think of it as a chain with many links -- the feds, the state, the county, DPHN. Each link is vital. Five years ago, the county broke the chain by withdrawing their link. Local social service agencies and the medical community scrambled to retain public health services. That's how DPHN came into being. Then all the links reconfigured into a new and different kind of chain. I think Chris is saying the county could break the chain again. I'm not sure.

Chris. if you're out there reading this, please let us know what you mean. I'm telling what I know about how the process works, but it may not be what you had in mind at all. Would appreciate knowing what you're thinking.

mworden

Here is a PDF file from the state on Local Public Health in Oregon

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/ABOUT/TaskForce/Documents/local-overview.pdf

The executive summary and following page explains how it works (with many more pages to follow.) The county is the local public health authority by statute. DPHN is the designated service provider for the local health authority.

This is the exact same system I worked in. Oregon statute gave prime authority to enact my program to the county governing body, but even with that power and authority, the county remained an agent of the state and was required to carry out duties as imposed by state laws. The county designated me and the non-profit that employed me as being contractually responsible for carrying out the duties imposed by state laws and administrative rules. I did not work for the county. Commissioners checked in regularly to see how things were going, but they did not supervise our programs or employees.

Mike

A much more thorough explanation than provided by Commissioner Boice. Thank you. In your opinion, do the County Commissioners have the authority to cancel the contract with the stated if DPHN does not follow their orders?

mworden

Mike, in my opinion, the county could cancel the contract with DPHN in the next budget cycle, but it would be a very unsound move on their part. It's not something I'm worrying about.

In my experience, the county commissioners (different commissioners) did not give us orders to do anything except to say here are the statutes and administrative rules, follow them, act professionally and provide good services to the community. They did not get involved in day to day operations except to offer help. They contracted the services out because they wanted to trim the county employees and payroll costs. It was cheaper and more effective to contract out the services and to stay at arm's length. We dealt much more frequently with the state authority. The county was a go-between, a financially responsible conduit for state and federal funds. The county did not take a cut. They passed the funds on and took some of the fiscal responsibility for accounting. It was a way to safeguard state and federal funds. We did have to justify budgets, but none of the commissioners were professionally qualified in our service area so they did not interfere with the actual delivery of services. Qualified state officials did assess the services and report their findings to the county,

In my opinion, Chris cannot unilaterally cancel the contract. From what I know, Tim wouldn't want to, not now in the middle of a pandemic. Tim also worked to remove public health as a county department and his actions helped bring about the current system. I just can't see him monkeying with it. I don't know about the other guy. As far as Chris not having to wear a mask because he's the local health authority ... sometimes people say rash things. As far as I understand, the local health authority is an administrative governmental role and it operates under the authority of the state statutes and administrative rules. The rules about masks and other anti-covid measures came from the state level. Our local guys, including the sheriff, have said they won't enforce. But they don't get to cancel the rule. They can disobey it. But they don't get to make their own rules. Or at least that's how I understand it. When I go into stores almost everyone is complying. It's family and social get-togethers where people let their guard down.

One time, long long ago, a county commissioner got very mad because I refused to cut a special deal for a friend of his friend. He tried to unilaterally defund us and he announced it to the media. I heard that I'd lost my job on the news. The other two commissioners and the budget committee, with advice from the state and county counsel, re-funded us within three days. I stayed employed until I left of my own accord for greener pastures.

I honestly don't think the commissioners are pulling the strings or making threats to DPHN. I doubt it would work. I think the whole Freedom Rally thing with elected officials attending is completely separate from everything public health is doing. As I said before, DPHN can tell Chris he should wear a mask but they can't make him. The DPHN staff would probably make him leave the room if he came too close indoors without a face covering. The problem I'm having is that Commissioner Boice's actions, explanations and attitudes seemed aimed directly at currying favor with people who use President Trump as their most reliable covid source of information. To me that's risky, unfortunate, unsound and dangerous. I understand it, but I don't like it. And now Donald and Melania have tested positive for covid. I hope everyone else stays safe.

Mike

On April 20, Dr. Dannenhoffer was quoted saying, “he knew of nowhere in the nation that was yet prepared to meet even the broad guidelines of the federal plan. Those guidelines include sufficient personal protective gear, robust testing and an army of people to follow up on cases. If somebody can show me that their area is ready, I’d love to see that,” he said. “Nobody has taken me up on that.”

https://www.bluemountaineagle.com/coronavirus/oregons-plan-to-reopen-economy-is-emerging/article_c8796e3e-84b9-11ea-9a7f-d3fc5000029a.html

On April 22, all three Douglas County Commissioners published a signed letter submitted to the Governor requesting Douglas County be reopened April 25.

On April 23, Dr. Dannenhoffer said, “It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet, and we still very, very much worry that there are other states that have really high numbers of cases and since people can still travel we worry that diseases can still be imported.”

http://www.nrtoday.com/news/health/coronavirus/oregon-governor-to-lift-ban-on-non-urgent-medical-procedures/article_da932029-0e56-5647-8caf-0b375d95316d.html

Dr. Dannenhoffer went from saying “he knew of nowhere in the nation that was prepared to meet even the broad guidelines of the federal plan…If somebody can show me that their area is ready, I’d love to see that,” to pointing to “OTHER states that have really high numbers” in seeming support of the Commissioner’s re-opening. I’m not saying Dr. Dannenhoffer signed the Commissioner’s letter. What I’m saying is Dr. Dannenhoffer’s words appear to support the Commissioner’s letter and he accepted the Commissioner’s decision without public protest, contrary to his previous statements.

That’s just one example of Dr. Dannenhoffer NOT acting independently of the Commissioner’s political agenda. I have 16 or 17 more examples I can provide if you are interested.

Mike

More than willing to publish the other misleading and untruthful comments by Dr. Dannenhoffer if you don't believe me.

mworden

Mike, I've probably read or heard every one of those examples. I'm choosing to cut DPHN and Dr. D some slack and you have a higher expectation. I don't think your expectation is wrong, it's just different than mine. I'm consciously choosing to cut some slack because I know the futility of advising elected officials and having them go off and do their own thing. It's not a wall that's worth banging your head into publicly. Lots of head-butting does go on behind closed doors. Dr. Fauci and President Trump come to mind. There are plenty of times I would have liked to see Dr. Fauci pointing his finger at the President and shouting, "Do not listen to this man." I lost no respect for him when he was more diplomatic in his efforts to speak to the American people.

I support you in your efforts to bring facts and figures and stats forward into public discussion I especially appreciate that your re-post the zip code info on Wednesdays. Your hard work has saved me time and I trust your figures.

Mike

On Sunday, it was reported that a Sutherlin East Elementary School child tested positive for coronavirus. School Superintendent Terry Prestianni claimed Parents of children in the same cohort as the person who tested positive were notified by school officials Sunday, September 27. This was 3 days after learning the child had tested positive for the disease.

According to the Oregon Health Authority weekly report (below link), Douglas County Public Health Network officials (County Commissioners) learned Thursday September 24 that the child had tested positive. Either the Douglas County Public Health Network withheld the information from the Sutherlin School for 3 days or the School sat on the information for 3 days before doing anything.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Emerging%20Respitory%20Infections/COVID-19-Weekly-Report-2020-09-30-FINAL.pdf

Mike

Our Douglas County Commissioners reported 6 new coronavirus cases in Douglas County today, bringing the total to 246 cases and 4 deaths.

Our County Commissioners reported Douglas County had 25 coronavirus cases and received 683 test results over the past week. Dividing 25 cases by 683 test results gives a 7-day positive test rate of 3.7% for Douglas County today. It has now been above 1% for 20 days.

The six counties surrounding Douglas County reported 56 new coronavirus cases and 1 death in Jackson County today. The six counties surrounding Douglas County had 395 cases and 3 deaths over the past week.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 218 new coronavirus cases and 4 deaths today. The 7-day positive test rate for Oregon is 5.1% today. It has now been above 5% for 14 days.

Mike

The Oregon Health Authority reported coronavirus cases for each Douglas County zip codes as of September 27 (below link). It appears the OHA report is inaccurate. Douglas County reported a total of 233 total cases on September 20. The below zip codes only add up to 208 cases. There is no indication which counties have the 22 missing coronavirus cases.

97417: 9

97435: 9

97457: 27

97462: 13

97467: 9

97469: 9

97470: 38

97471: 51

97479: 43

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Emerging%20Respitory%20Infections/COVID-19-Weekly-Report-2020-09-30-FINAL.pdf

Mike

Yesterday, Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice commented in the News-Review and repeatedly wrote that I am a liar about coronavirus related allegations I have posed about him. I strive to be honest. Like everyone, I do make mistakes. When I do, I do my best to apologize or correct the record. The following is my response to Commissioner Boice:

1. Pictures from a recent News-Review article show a maskless Commissioner Boice participating in a “Freedom” anti-mask rally conducted on the county courthouse lawn. I have criticized Commissioner Boice for being more than a participant in this rally opposed to coronavirus restrictions. Commissioner Boice responded by saying, “more lies“and “I was not even a planned participant of the rally. I did however, NOTICE a large gathering of freedom loving individuals.” Commissioner Boice would have everyone believe he didn’t know anything about the rally beforehand and just “noticed” it. This description is refuted by the rally organizers’ Facebook page (below link) that says, “We are calling on our governmental leaders… We want to let our Commissioners know that we stand behind them and encourage them to stand up and speak out on our behalf.” You be the judge. Do you believe Commissioners Boice just happened to “notice” the rally as he claims or do you believe he knew about and spearheaded the rally in opposition to coronavirus restrictions?

https://www.facebook.com/events/1652724951568419/?active_tab=discussion

2. While disputing his participation in the rally, Commissioner Boice yesterday claimed, “I did not encourage anyone to not wear a mask” at the rally. However, days before the rally, Commissioner Boice was interviewed by a radio station (audio link below) about increased coronavirus restrictions in Douglas County where he said, “Some folks don’t want to wear a mask…I COMMEND a lot of those folks.” On one hand, Commissioner Boice commends people for NOT wearing a mask yet, now that coronavirus cases and deaths are increasing in Douglas County, he wants us to believe just the opposite.

https://kqennewsradio.com/wp-content/uploads/IDC-8-26-20.mp3

3. Commissioner Boice claimed during his radio station interview that he would NOT enforce Governor Kate Brown’s increased coronavirus restrictions, stating; 1. The state contracted Douglas County to be the local Public Health Agency; 2. “We weren’t interested in enforcing state mandates…as a county, we AREN’T willing to enforce this mask thing” and; 3. “Its NEVER been the Sheriff’s role to enforce public health mandates.” Countering Commissioner Boice’s opinion, the U.S. Justice Department and Police Executive Research Forum addressed this specific issue in 2006, during the Bush Administration, in preparation for a potential epidemic and issued a 38 page document at the below link titled “Role of Law Enforcement in Public Health Emergencies.” The summary states, “If a pandemic influenza outbreak occurs in the United States, it is essential that governmental entities at all levels continue to provide essential public safety services and maintain public order. It is critical that all stakeholders in State and local law enforcement and public safety agencies, whose primary responsibility this is, be fully prepared to support public health efforts and to address the additional challenges they may face during such an outbreak.” It is my opinion, Commissioner Boice has risked the lives of Douglas County residents by making coronavirus a political issue rather than a health issue. His rally with maskless followers and Governor Recall booths exemplify this. Commissioner Boice choosing to resist coronavirus restrictions has and will probably continue to have deadly consequences.

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/214333.pdf

4. Also during his radio interview, Commissioner Boice claimed the Governor “wanted [Commissioners] to lead by example.” He said, “we’re doing a great job…Douglas County is one of the best as far as cases in the state...we have an entirely low case count compared to other counties in Oregon.” This statement is easy to fact check. Contrary to Commissioner Boice’s and Dr. Dannenhoffer's claim, Oregon Health Authority’s data indicates Douglas County is 17th highest of 36 counties in Oregon for coronavirus cases and 21st highest for deaths. Relative to his peer Commissioners in other Counties, Commissioner Boice is doing average at best. And his relative performance continues to worsen because deaths and cases in Southern Oregon are increasing at a disproportionate rate.

5. After conversing in person with Commissioner Boice, I’m convinced he talks and writes without thinking things through and often regrets it. If you listen to Commissioner Boice’s radio interview, pay particular attention to how he contradicts himself. Starting around minute 3 of the interview, Commissioner Boice mentions his weekly conference call with other County Commissioners saying, “it was unanimous throughout most of the counties” how the counties should respond to the Governor’s new coronavirus restrictions. Several minutes later, Commissioner Boice says, “I HAVEN’T agreed with Association of Oregon Counties on pretty much EVERYTHING when it comes to COVID.”

6. As long as Commissioner Boice is accusing me of lying, I think it only appropriate he answer my question about School re-openings. On September 5, Commissioner Boice issued a press release (below link) congratulating himself for Douglas County’s 7-day positive test rate being below 1% for four weeks in a row.

http://douglaspublichealthnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/09-05-2020-DCCRT-DAILY-UPDATE-COVID-19.pdf

The reason this is important is because a 7-day positive test rate for three weeks under 1% is one of requirements for reopening Douglas County schools. And the Oregon Health Authority weekly school metrics report (below link) indicates Commissioner Boice was not being truthful and Douglas County has NEVER met that metric. In fact, I’ve asked Commissioner Boice multiple times to identify the weeks Douglas County’s 7-day positive test rate was below 1%. He has so far declined to respond. Bottom line, it never happened. It is this type of untruthful and misleading information being fed to the public by Commissioner Boice and his fellow Commissioners that endangers County children and increases the potential that more misinformed people will die in our county.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Emerging%20Respitory%20Infections/Weekly-County-Metrics.pdf

Douglas County is a wonderful place to live. It is unfortunate however that our county leaders are more worried about the politics of a public health epidemic that they are the residents who voted for them.

Roseburgonian

Our leadership is failing our kids and failing us left and right. The online schooling is not ok for small children and in classroom teaching is super scary and stressful. when will people start voting for leaders and stop the popularity contests..?

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