LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Health Department deserves support, not politics

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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It is discouraging, but not surprising, that our county commissioners are, as they have since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, prioritizing politics over public health.

At their March 6 meeting, the commissioners approved by a 6-1 vote (thanks to Peter Asciutto for being the adult in the room) a resolution supporting HB98.

HB98 essentially strips local health departments of their authority to enact countermeasures against Covid.

If passed, this bill would set a dangerous precedent – that politicians with little to no public health knowledge believe they know more about communicable diseases than do medical professionals.

This is a prime example of government overreach, something our commissioners complain about endlessly.

That this is all about politics and not about actual public health is obvious.

When the Stanly County Consolidated Human Services Board failed to support Commissioner Crump’s resolution, she invited Dr. Amir Koohestani to the commissioners meeting to support her opinions.

As reported by the Stanly News & Press, Koohistani leaned on the Great Barrington Declaration to bolster Crump’s case.

The declaration was commissioned and funded by a Libertarian think tank and is in no way an unbiased, scientific document. It was published in October 2020, and is thus woefully out of date. The declaration lays out numerous policies to address Covid, including the dubious strategy of herd immunity through widespread viral transmission.

Critically, the declaration states, “Keeping (herd immunity) in place until a vaccine is available…” (italics mine), indicating that the authors fully expected that a vaccine would supersede their recommendations.

More than two years after the declaration, we have vaccines clinically proven to reduce the number of severe cases of Covid, and that are safe for the majority of our citizens.

Koohistani also makes unsubstantiated claims regarding hydroxychloroquine for treatment of Covid. No peer-reviewed double-blind studies have indicated that hydroxychloroquine is clinically useful in the treatment of Covid. His statement that hydroxychloroquine has no side effects is disingenuous.

The data sheet from Sanofi, for example, describing their hydroxychloroquine product indicates that cardiac, skin and retinal damage are observed adverse reactions.

A search of four academic databases failed to substantiate Koohistani’s claim that mask wearing increases suicide among children. There are simply too many confounding factors, such as isolation, lack of social engagement and social media interaction during Covid to attribute this increase solely to masking.

The fact that the commissioners trusted Koohistani, and not Dr. Jenny Hinson, because he confirmed their biases is nothing but a blatant political statement.

Over the past three years, public health agencies, including the Stanly County Health Department, have done exceptional work in safeguarding our communities against the deadliest disease outbreak since the 1918 influenza pandemic. The county commissioners’ support of HB98 essentially tells their Health Department “we don’t trust you, we don’t respect you, and we’re willing to play political games with you.”

Our Health Department deserves our thanks and support, not this political theater.

Thomas E. Lipe