Carroll County commissioners met last Thursday, December 30th to receive updates from Carroll Hospital and EMT leadership on the latest COVID surge facing the healthcare system and discuss potential solutions.
Unfortunately, rather than working to provide relief to medical workers, commissioners Dennis Frazier (R-District 3), Stephen Wantz (R-District 1) and Ed Rothstein (R-District 5) were more interested in dividing the community and demonizing their own colleagues over their position on vaccines. Community participants who attended or live-streamed the meeting were disappointed by the lack of professionalism displayed.
Updates presented by Carroll Hospital’s COO Garrett Hoover and Michael Robinson, director of Fire and Emergency Medical Services for Carroll County, brought to light many of the challenges facing the healthcare system. But rather than probing these issues, Frazier pivoted focus to community-wide vaccinations, a hotly debated topic, repeating many of the same CDC and Health Department talking points, and overselling it as a solution to the current healthcare crisis.
Eric Bouchat (R-District 4) would be the only commissioner to direct questions at the core issues facing the system: hospital staffing and supply shortages. Looking to ease public fears around COVID and the latest omicron variant, Bouchat also inquired about the currently low mortality rate that would be ignored by the Health Department metrics.
Topics or questions that veered from vaccinations would be faced with eye-rolling, shaking heads and flailing arms by Frazier, Rothstein and Wantz, while the Health Department side-stepped questions on therapeutics to focus on the lack of available testing. Meanwhile, no solutions were discussed that would seek to provide targeted vaccine access to the most vulnerable.
Seeing a resurgence of COVID restrictions in neighboring counties and given the commissioners’ voting record, many citizens expressed concerns with the possibility of restrictions returning to Carroll. Citizens who attended the meeting felt dismissed by Rothstein who claimed they were “responding to social media rumors”. Rothstein later explained that the commissioners had no intent to reinstitute COVID mandates and instead proposed measures that would “lead by example”.
What would this “example” be? Ineffective mask mandates that discriminate against unvaccinated government employees. The commissioners would vote 4-1, Bouchat being the only “no” vote, to require masking of unvaccinated county employees in government buildings. Frazier, who expressed a strong desire to verify vaccination status, was fortunately overridden for a less effective “honor system”.
The “example” policy ignores some of the latest science showing that the vaccinated can still spread COVID. While the policy states that N95 or KN95 masks are preferred, it still allows for cloth masks to be worn which the media has recently admitted are ineffective, particularly against omicron.
The community hopes for a “do-over” to this meeting where real solutions can be provided to struggling medical and emergency staff.