In his letter to the editor, area resident Rob Anderson expresses his concerns about Clark County Public Health director and staff
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com
Dr. Alan Melnick, the Clark County Public Health Officer, should be fired immediately.
Last week, the public surprisingly learned that Dr. Melnick directed the Clark County Public Health (CCPH) department to not disclose one of the largest COVID outbreaks in Clark County. We also learned that the Board of Health (BOH) learned of this outbreak just last week as well.
This is an egregious and intentional failure to execute the duties we have entrusted, first to the BOH and also to Dr. Melnick. This isn’t just a slip-up or difference of opinion issue but a matter of violating Washington State Laws, that includes “Each local board of health shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to the preservation of the life and health of the people within its jurisdiction” (RCW 70.05.060), ”The local health officer, acting under the direction of the local board of health” (RCW 70.05.070) and the local health officer has a duty to “Inform the public as to the causes, nature” (RCW 70.05.070(4).
Transparency and dependability is vital in all of our government agencies but none more important these days than at CCPH during a pandemic. It is inexcusable to keep one of the biggest outbreaks from the public but also the equivalent of his boss, the BOH, which is the Clark County Council (CCC).
During the whole pandemic, Dr. Melnick has shown blatant disregard for properly informing the BOH with elderly citizens often in the crosshairs. Without informing the BOH, Melnick “passed along” Gov. Jay Inslee’s guidance that forced Clark County nursing homes to take potential COVID-19 positive patients, even if pending test results (meaning symptoms could be present but waiting days for results). In the end, over 100 wonderful citizens of Clark County, our moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas were exposed and died. Once again, Dr. Melnick kept the BOH in the dark just like he did of the largest COVID outbreaks that tore through The Hampton and Ashley Inn, a memory care center here in Clark County.
Why did he not tell the public or the BOH? The CCPH responded in saying it wasn’t really a risk to the public, in other words, you really didn’t need to know.
First, when 14 people die because of any outbreak that matters. When 87 percent of initially reported infections were fully vaccinated, which was later reduced to 62 percent after being processed by the state (because if the state doesn’t say you’re “fully vaccinated” then you’re NOT fully vaccinated) that matters. When the public is being told that getting vaccinated will “end COVID” like what we see on the freeway signs and the vaccine will “protect you” like CCPH told the public last summer in a slick social media campaign that included all the stories of people “protecting” their loved ones by getting vaccinated, this information matters and shouldn’t be kept from the public.
Secondly, Dr. Melnick is obligated to “inform the public” especially during outbreaks and clearly the BOH wasn’t happy that they were the last to know and neither should we. It seems, for some reason, Dr. Melnick acts as if he answers only to Inslee and not the Board of Health or, higher yet, the citizens of Clark County. By the way, how many other outbreaks of 50+ people infected has he not also divulged?
So, it’s very likely Dr. Melnick feels that he’s not accountable to the public via the BOH, and this explains why he has repeatedly not informed them of significant outbreaks or even the guidance that he blindly, without evaluating the impact on Clark County elderly, burdened area nursing homes that were ill prepared and supplied, and many died in its wake.
I’ve been engaged at BOH meetings and I can tell you that Dr. Melnick often obscures, omits and manipulates data to fit nicely with Inslee’s talking points. In 2020, I helped expose that many of the COVID deaths in Clark County didn’t die of COVID … some didn’t even have COVID on their death certificates because of a convoluted way to define COVID deaths (having a COVID positive test + death). Also, how hospitalizations are counted and reported is deceiving which is still being employed. Basically, if you are in a hospital AND test positive, you’re a COVID hospitalization. This is not the same as people being hospitalized BECAUSE of COVID but apparently that data isn’t as useful to the public. Dr. Melnick has been picking and choosing the data and now is caught concealing important information which violates state law and well as public trust.
It’s time for new leadership at CCPH to lead Clark County out of the pandemic and not be content to linger in it. The CCC must act immediately to remove Dr. Melnick and begin the search for someone who will respectfully and seriously act to “improve” the health of all the citizens in Clark County in all matters. This includes not just mindlessly following the state talking points but always following the BOH’s lead, who represent the citizens.
Will the CCC look to protect citizens and our right to oversee Public Health or will they do nothing in order to protect bureaucrats and unelected officials like Dr. Melnick? I guess we’ll all find out.