County Commissioners WEEK OF JULY 19-JULY 22, 2021
July 21 Agenda
July 21, 2021 Video – Not available
This meeting info will be uploaded after County posts the video and it can be reviewed.
July 22, 2021 – Agenda
Commissioners continued to argue with Josephine County Public Health Director Michael Weber about COVID-19 vaccines, citing information they pull from YouTube. When asked if the county is seeing a rise in COVID cases, Weber said there is and he’s not surprised. With a low vaccination rate while opening up again we are seeing an increasing number of cases with the Delta variant present here, he told them.
Commissioner Herman Baertschiger brushed this off as “nothing alarming. We all anticipated a little spike,” but when he asked if things are about where predicted Weber said there are more cases than anticipated and they are rising faster than they did last spring. However, at this point he doesn’t see any changes coming from the state, which has left it up to counties to determine what measures to take to mitigate increasing cases. He said frequent talks he’s had with state health officials mostly concern working out guidance for the reopening of schools.
Commissioner Darin Fowler asked if the vaccine clinic in Cave Junction was successful. Weber said it’s a continuing challenge trying to get people here vaccinated. Fowler then put on his lab coat and argued “why call it a vaccine when it’s not a vaccine, it’s gene therapy!”
Weber explained that it is not gene therapy, that it does not have the capability to alter genes, and that all the mRNA vaccines do is teach our cells to reject the COVID proteins. He said other vaccines, including smallpox, have also changed through research and don’t simply use dead viruses as they did in the past.
Baertschiger, quoting YouTube videos once again, and a “Florida doctor” who has been identified as one of the 12 people spreading the most vaccine information in social media, supposedly back up Fowler’s thesis, then continued his Tucker Carlson act by saying he’s just doing what good science does…bringing up questions. Fowler and Baertschiger went back and forth, saying they don’t trust the vaccines because they came from big pharma and the government and they want to know who’s getting rich off vaccinating people with what they believe is a dubious product immune from liability.
The ever-patient Weber stated that the vaccine is not just “a government thing,” explaining that the vaccine has been broadly researched by countless scientists in universities, that liability for it has not been waived everywhere and every extreme claim put out by anti-vax YouTube videos has been checked out and debunked. Countering Baertschiger’s claim that real doctors are making the YouTube videos so should have credibility, Weber said he can show videos from real doctors claiming aliens from space are taking over the world too but that doesn’t make them believable.
“I don’t know if I can express a higher level of confidence other than to say myself, my wife, and my kids have all been vaccinated,” Weber said.
In order to dispel the misinformation going around about the COVID vaccine, Weber said he plans to make several videos answering people’s questions, showing how scientific conclusions are reached, and reassuring them the vaccine is safe and necessary. He asked if the Commissioners would help him kick off his video campaign. Baertschiger said the board would have to give that some thought before agreeing to do that.
Weber also told the board to consider what the county’s responsibility is during extreme heat events. He proposed that his department provide heat watch reports and alerts that recommend canceling outdoor events and activate cooling centers. He said the number of people without air conditioning in this county is “very high.” Fowler said the county prefers to leave it to the cities to deal with cooling centers, which tend to become transient camps like warming centers in the winter and scare people who need them away. He said people can always go to Walmart or Home Depot and hang out if things get too bad. Baertschiger referred to history, saying pictures show people who lived here before air conditioning went down to Riverside Park and cooled off in the Rogue River and that’s what they could do today.
Weber said the reason warming centers tend to attract transients is that most people have heating in their homes so those without homes cluster there but air conditioning isn’t something every home comes within this area. He asked the board again to consider what the county’s obligation is for those at risk during periods of extreme heat so his department can plan accordingly.
During a final matter, Weber introduced his new WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coordinator who said she secured a grant for up to $55,000 to buy a van and set it up as a mobile clinic. After earlier slamming Biden’s payments to families with children, Fowler said he approved of the WIC program because “we’re not doing our job if we’re not taking care of women and children.”