The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Letter to the Editor: Kelsie W. Harwood

 

November 11, 2020



November 6, 2020

Blaine County Citizens:

Below is a letter I sent to Blaine County employees, the Blaine County Health Board, and the Chinook Police Department. I was asked by members of the Health Board to share it as a Letter to the Editor. While the Blaine County Health Department employees continue to do their diligent work, they are increasingly met with hostility, disparaging name-calling, and disrespect. As Blaine County continues to navigate COVID-19, please do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

October 26, 2020

Blaine County Colleagues:

I want to take the opportunity to voice this office’s continued support of the Blaine County Health Department and clear up any confusion regarding the power and authorities of the Blaine County Local Health Officer and the enforceability of the Local Health Order. As Blaine County COVID-19 positive cases continue to rise, supporting and assisting the Health Officer and the Blaine County Health Department in the COVID-19 response is imperative.

Montana Code Annotated § 50-2-118 provides: “In order to carry out the purpose of the public health system, in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners, local health officers or their authorized representatives shall:

1. make inspections for conditions of public health importance and issue written orders for compliance or for correction, destruction, or removal of the condition;

2. take steps to limit contact between people in order to protect the public health from imminent threats, including but not limited to ordering the closure of buildings or facilities where people congregate and canceling events;

3. report communicable diseases to the department as required by rule;

4. establish and maintain quarantine and isolation measures as adopted by the local board of health; and

5. pursue action with the appropriate court if this chapter or rules adopted by the local board or department under this chapter are violated.”

Specific to the COVID-19 response, the Health Officer has the obligation to issue quarantine and isolation measures, among the other enumerated duties. I understand some Blaine County citizens may disagree with the Executive Orders and Local Health Order. However, the fact is these are the laws in Montana until and unless the Montana Supreme Court says otherwise; and all elected officials take an oath to uphold the law. We are doing a disservice to the difficult and diligent work of the Health Department if we discredit their strategies and policies when addressing this pandemic.

We are representatives of Blaine County in our personal and professional lives, and we put the Blaine County Health Department and the Health Officer in an extremely difficult position when we do not have a united stance to fight COVID-19. Please understand the lack of adherence to Executive Orders, the Local Health Order, and the Health Officer’s instruction impacts other work of local government offices beyond COVID-19 related issues. We collectively lose credibility for law enforcement; criminal prosecutions; child protection matters; school safety; and election issues if we pick and choose what laws we think should be enforced.

As members of the Blaine County community, we likely have common goals: reduce COVID-19 transmission, keep our children in school, and keep our local businesses open. Please play your part to support our health care professionals so we can achieve these goals.

Sincerely,

Kelsie W. Harwood

BLAINE COUNTY ATTORNEY

 
 

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