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Yamhill County commissioners spar with health director over COVID website

Yamhill County Commissioners are sparring with their director of Health and Human Services over what type of language and information should be posted on the co
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:29 PM PST
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MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (KPTV) - Yamhill County commissioners are sparring with their director of Health and Human Services over what type of language and information should be posted on the county’s COVID-19 webpage.

Two of the county’s three commissioners are pushing for the change, citing a “lack of balance” when it comes to the available data posted online.

“As a public health department, we can be proactive about and not rubberstamp the Fauci, OHA (Oregon Health Authority) prevailing narrative,” said Commissioner Mary Starrett during a board meeting Thursday.

Board Chair Lindsay Berschauer also favors adding more in-depth and diverse COVID information to the county’s website.

Starrett has gone as far as threatening to withhold a special letter from the department that is needed to renew its status as an accredited member of the Public Health Accreditation Board.

In the meeting, Health and Human Services Director Dr. Lindsey Manfrin told the board that she added some of the recommendations put forth by board members to the county’s website.

Manfrin said her staff added more information and links about the importance of exercise, rest, diet and vitamins for staying healthy and boosting the immune system.

Other changes to the webpage include tips for treating COVID at home, what people should do when they are sick, the use of oxygen pulsometers, dehydration, breakthrough cases, and information about the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, said Manfrin.

Manfrin said she would not include information or links suggesting that people should treat COVID with specific vitamins.

“These are not proven to treat COVID,” Manfrin said. “There’s a risk and a liability there for us, and I think the other piece is, where do we stop? Who decides whether unauthorized or unproved treatments go on our webpage?”

The meeting was largely cordial, but there was an air of tension and frustration.

Information regarding the use of vitamins for preventing and treating Covid, as well as differing opinions over the risks associated with getting vaccinated, were the most contentious parts of the meeting.

Starrett and Berschauer said they want a host of data -- like breakthrough cases, vaccine effectiveness and rare vaccine-related injuries -- to be prominent on the website.

“For us to say, as Yamhill County, that these (vaccines) are safe and effective and there’s really no problem -- I’m finding this very frustrating,” Starrett said.

In Yamhill County, nearly 70 percent of eligible residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The data also still continues to clearly show that hospitalizations and deaths are, drastically, drastically reduced by individuals being vaccinated,” Manfrin said.

A third commissioner, Casey Kulla, stood by Manfrin during his testimony.

“Putting something onto a treatment page that’s not authorized, that doesn’t have rigorous studies behind it is irresponsible, frankly, and brings us into the picture of liability because we’re not the doctor,” Kulla said.

The Oregon Health Authority weighed in on the spat Thursday, sending FOX 12 a statement.

It reads in part, “An essential role of local public health authorities is to provide scientifically based information that evolves as the science learns more to inform the public and to take reasonable measures to keep communities safe and healthy… OHA also believes that local elected officials should support their local public health departments in seeking national public health accreditation.”

According to OHA, Yamhill County Health and Human Services does not need an accreditation from PHAB to operate.

The accreditation is akin to a gold star on its achievements.

The Commissioners did not mention withholding the letter at the Thursday meeting but did ask Manfrin to make more changes to the website and then report back.