Jefferson County Board of Health terms misinformation a public health crisis

Resolution backs mandates, urges vaccination

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Health approved a resolution in support of public health and hospital employees and COVID-19 health mandates, and declaring health misinformation as a public health crisis.

The Board of Health members approved the resolution Thursday afternoon during their regular meeting, and it will be brought before the Jefferson Healthcare hospital commissioners on Wednesday.

The approved resolution is a statement of support and doesn’t change any of the public health mandates that Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, made or the response strategies that the county public health and emergency management teams have implemented.

It taps misinformation as the cause of most of the vaccination hesitancy in the county. Such misinformation is a public health crisis, the document says.

The resolution says addressing questions and concerns with factual evidence will help alleviate concerns by those hesitant to be vaccinated and urges people who are spreading information to consult “reliable sources of data that follow the preponderance of evidence.”

It acknowledges the surging of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County and that the health care system is stretched thin trying to keep up with the increased patient load among staff and shortages, as well as public health officials struggling to keep up with contact tracing.

The resolution supports the public health measures that Berry and the public health department have enacted to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Public health measures like masking, physical distancing, vaccinations and specific activity restrictions, many of which should be considered privileges and not personal rights, are proven ways of slowing the spread of this virus, saving lives, and ending the pandemic,” the resolution said.

Berry “found that unvaccinated patrons in bars and restaurants spread the virus and instead of closing down the industry or limiting occupancy, issued a vaccine mandate for bar and restaurant customers in order to help protect the local economy, the employees of those businesses, our vulnerable children, and our struggling healthcare and public health systems,” the resolution said.

Civil dialogue

The members are urging residents who are opposed to the public health mandates regarding masking and proof of vaccination to “use civil dialogue and to avoid intimidation and threats of violence.”

“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,” the resolution said.

“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.”

The final requests from the board of health to the community is for all residents 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible, hold each other accountable for behavior and to “urge everyone in our community to appreciate, support and thank our dedicated public health and healthcare employees, since the health of our community depends on them.”

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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