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Board of Health hears criticism and support in Ravalli health officer shakeup

Posted at 9:27 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-25 13:16:34-04

HAMILTON — The Ravalli County Board of Health heard both criticism, and expressions of support today, as they consider the health officer's announcement she was resigning in a dispute over managing the pandemic.

Last weekend, Ravalli County Health Officer Carol Calderwood told county commissioners she was stepping down, saying she was caught in a "no-win scenario" over statements by commissioners and the sheriff about Gov. Steve Bullock's mandate to wear masks.

During today's brief, but passionate public meeting, the Board of Health explained Calderwood hadn't formally submitted her resignation to the board, and they just wanted to hear comments from the public on what should happen next.

And they got an earful, with mask opponents making arguments with phrases like "liberty" and "freedom", while others came to Calderwood's defense. Some disputed the facts about the coronavirus, and the science behind masks, while the board came to Calderwood's defense.

"I would find it very difficult to have you leave at this juncture, because there's still too much that needs to be done," Ravalli County Board of Health member Katie Scholl said.

"But some reality has to be in play," Hamilton chiropractor Dr. Justin Potts added. "This is not a position to be ran on emotion. It's a position to be ran on facts."

"Whether we like it or not, we're in this together," Ravalli County Board of Health member Roger De Haan said. "And so we may as well get comfortable because we're all riding on the same boat. And we've just got to figure out how to steer it, and I wish us all luck and I appreciate your efforts. Thank you very much."

The Board of Health made no decision in Friday's special meeting. They could act on Calderwood's resignation, and her offer to continue consulting the county, next Tuesday.