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County Commissioners – WEEK OF MAY 17-21

WEEK OF MAY 17-21

05/19/2021 Agenda
05/19/2021 YouTube

This week Josephine County Commissioners were set to vote on a code amendment called “Unlawful Respiratory Interference” until County Council Wally Hicks, through a convoluted word salad, said the lifting of the state mask mandate made it superfluous.

This was Hicks’ explanation:

“This was drafted prior to the state lifting mask mandate for people who have been vaccinated, the idea was that prior to the state lifting that the hope was this would create basically a choice of what would be a choice of evils defense which is typically an option or it’s a defense that’s often available in criminal cases. This would be theoretically something comparable in a civil type of prosecution which would be involved, in other words an entity would have hopefully, have an offense, I’m not saying it’s a sure thing but that what we were exploring with this idea, was that it would allow for an entity to defend um, a state prosecution, uh, by saying that it had to choose between the state’s rule or the county’s. Uh, so since that time, since the ordinance was drafted, uh, of course, the state has changed its rules and so I think that um you know he’s probably…this is probably one that should go back on the shelf at this point uh unless there’s a higher level of interest in pursuing it but it just doesn’t because the state has changed its rules it’s, it’s not going to have the effect that it was designed to have.”

The Commissioners tried to figure out how their code amendment might still work to free the community of what they call the Governor’s oppressive mask mandate, but Public Health Officer Mike Webber said, essentially, there isn’t a mask mandate. He explained that “guidance” has no teeth and Public Health has no enforcement authority except for restaurant inspection. Hicks said it is still unlawful not to follow a governor’s order, but since the order has basically been lifted with people who have not been vaccinated advised to wear masks while vaccinated people don’t need to, he thought the code amendment should be shelved for now.

During Webber’s Public Health report, he said while Josephine County is still in the high-risk category, COVID cases are trending down and we could drop into the moderate category in a month or two. His data shows that schools, workplaces and health care centers still generate the highest number of COVID cases, but when Commissioner Dan DeYoung pointed out that churches were just a small sliver on the chart, Webber said the data was “problematic” because schools, work places and health care keep much better records than churches and other social gatherings do so it’s hard to tell how many COVID cases have come from other sources.

Later, Commissioners discussed going back to meeting in person at Anne Basker Auditorium. Baertschiger put an end to that when he said, “I’m not wearing a mask and if that’s gonna be a deal killer I’ll sit in my office.” Fowler said he would wear a mask under the guidelines that say an unvaccinated person should wear a mask but unvaccinated people don’t have to, indicating he hasn’t been vaccinated. DeYoung has been vaccinated so he deferred to the other two Commissioners concerning a return to Anne Basker. Baertschiger said he had COVID and should be exempt because he has natural immunity, but Webber said that isn’t recognized in the new mask guidelines put out by the state. Fowler asked if he had a test that proved negative, would that enable him to go maskless. Webber said no. You are either vaccinated or not, he said. After arguing about whether revealing your COVID vaccination status by whether or not you wear a mask, or if asking people to provide proof of vaccination violates the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPPA) referring to privacy concerning a person’s medical records, Webber settled the question by saying the statute doesn’t apply here. Baertschiger was concerned that there would be some stigma applied to mask-wearers as the unvaccinated but Webber said many vaccinated people choose to wear masks anyway so that isn’t an issue. Then Baertschiger said he has lung damage from 43 years of breathing forest fire smoke and can’t abide masks. DeYoung, tiring of the discussion, waved his hands just said they will continue meeting by ZOOM.

“People ask me why we aren’t meeting like city hall. I don’t want to be like city hall,” DeYoung declared.

The Commissioners brought up the Pipe Fork timber sale and said they are just a few months away from deciding on that section of forest and haven’t heard a word from the “Pipe Fork people” on whether they’ve made any progress in getting a non-profit to buy it for a preserve. They directed the County Forester to get an update on the property’s value. Commissioner Herman Baertschiger said a phytophthora infection (root rot) is spreading among the Port Orford cedar trees out there and possibly into the Douglas fir as well.

Between routine matters, financial reports, continuing matters and executive sessions Commissioners found time to pontificate, complain and criticize their favorite villains: Governor Brown, OSHA, OHA, Democrats, and now the Grants Pass City Council.

Governor Brown and Democratic legislators, they assert, are using Oregon Health Authority to foist unnecessary and confusing COVID conditions upon the public to keep the state legislature closed so Democrats can legislate without being bothered by public input. They gloated about how the City Council, retreating from the “black eye” they got for canceling Boatnik, realized their mistake and reconsidered. No one from the City was present to give their side of the story. Commissioners complained about the large budget surplus the state expects this year, revisited why they don’t trust the government because state leaders are always putting out confusing and contradictory statements.

Baertschiger’s radio comments this week.

During his regular Tuesday discussion on the Bill Meyer Show on KMED, Baertschiger brought up HIPAA concerns which were clarified to be incorrect by Public Health Officer Mike Webber, and he continued his rants about “vaccination passports” to prove you are vaccinated, saying that the new guidelines leave out people who’ve had COVID and have natural immunity. Then he said after “all the drama and finger-pointing” they were finally going to get Boatnik. Asked about the scathing editorial about him in the Daily Courier, Baertschiger said he doesn’t take the editor seriously because newsmen are just “people who sit in an office behind a computer throwing mudballs.” Baertschiger continued his push of the “Big Lie” saying that he believes the Arizona “audit” will reveal major irregularities and that the voting machines were hacked.

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