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Ravalli County commissioners sorry to see health officer resign

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Posted at 8:46 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 22:47:10-04

HAMILTON — Ravalli County commissioners say they're sorry to see the county's health officer resign in a disagreement over the wearing of masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. And they say they remain supportive of the Health Department's efforts during the pandemic.

County commissioners were thrown a curveball over the weekend when County Health Officer Carol Calderwood announced she was stepping down, saying she'd been given "another no-win scenario" as commissioners and Sheriff Steve Holton issued a statement advocating freedom of choice after Governor Bullock issued a mandate for the wearing of masks in public last week.

"Well, Dennis, obviously we're extremely disappointed to lose someone of Dr. Calderwood's caliber, especially during the on-going COVID pandemic," said Ravalli County Commissioner Chris Hoffman. "Carol is a wonderful physician, has been I believe, provided the citizens of Ravalli County with excellent service since she came on board as the public health officer in 2008."

Calderwood faulted elected officials for their decision to "disobey the Governor's directive without my input."

She said masks are "easy to use, safe, cheap" and an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"I mean I don't want to put words in her mouth, but I think that this situation had been difficult for anybody, or would be, has been difficult for all the people that are in her positions around the state," said Hoffman.

At the same time, Hoffman defends the support the commissioners and sheriff have given the Health Department since last spring, and expects that to continue as the pandemic drags on.

"I'm disappointed in the tone of the letter with regard to, you know, what some citizens have characterized as a lack of support for public health," said Hoffman. "I think it's been just the opposite. The county commissioners, the sheriff's office, have all dedicated nothing but unequivocal support to public health during this time.

Calderwood said she had hoped to stay with the country through the pandemic, that she's "reluctant to quit" because of her "loyalty" to the county's residents and public health nurses. Hoffman says the commissioners intend to continue using her expertise as the department transitions into a new director.

The county's Board of Health will discuss Calderwood's resignation when it meets next week.