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Board of Health officially accepts Coffman resignation

The Washington County Board of Health officially accepted the resignation of Department Administrator Roger Coffman on Monday in a special business meeting.

Coffman resigned in the last special meeting of the board, during executive session on Nov. 23.

But since Ohio public meeting laws require government bodies to conduct all action in the public eye and document all action on public record including in meeting minutes (notably that the acceptance of a resignation must be formally entered into public record and no action may be taken by the board during executive session) the board was required to meet again Monday to legally formalize the action taken in November.

“No vote or other decision-making on the matter(s) discussed may take place during the executive session,” reads the closure of the second paragraph of page 108 of the 2020 Ohio Sunshine Laws open government resource manual published annually by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. “The Open Meetings Act requires the members of a public body to discuss and deliberate on official business only in open meetings.”

Board President Bruce Kelbaugh asked the board Monday to place him in Coffman’s stead for accreditation meetings and site visit planning with the national public health accreditation board to keep the board on a judicious timeline for early 2021, rather than incur significant delay due to the absence of an administrator.

The board unanimously confirmed the action by vote.

Kelbaugh also confirmed that formal action concerning the posting of the position of administrator, which Coffman filled for less than 11 months, will be on next week’s regular business agenda when the board convenes at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14.

OTHER BUSINESS

In open session Monday, the board also authorized the purchase of a GMC diesel truck for $76,547.50 out of a coronavirus supplemental grant, as the agency scrambles to spend federal stimulus funds which either must be spent or encumbered for eligible spends by the close of December.

Discussion concerning the purchase centered on longevity of the asset as the department not only handles a pandemic, but is also responsible for other public health programming including dental sealant work for children, public swimming pool inspection, septic tank/home sewage treatment inspection and condemnation, tobacco prevention, fall prevention, inspection of tattoo parlors and food service inspection.

The state sunshine laws manual defines discussion as “the exchange of words, comments, or ideas by the members of a public body.”

The manual defines deliberation as “the act of weighing and examining reasons for and against a choice.”

“One court has described ‘deliberation’ as a thorough discussion of all factors involved, a careful weighing of positive and negative factors, and a cautious consideration of the ramifications of the proposal, while gradually arriving at a decision,” it cites of two court cases:

¯ Theile v.Harris, 1st Dist. No. C-860103,1986 WL 6514 (June11, 1986);

¯ State ex rel. Ames v. Brimfield Twp. Board of Trustees, 11th Dist. Portage No. 2019-P-0018, 2019-Ohio-5311.

“Another court described the term as involving ‘a decisional analysis, i.e., an exchange of views on the facts in an attempt to reach a decision,” it cites. “Discussions of public business may also be conducted over any other media, such as the telephone, video conference, email, text, or tweet. In other words, just because a discussion did not occur in-person does not mean it is exempt from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.”

The board also completed in open session Monday the authorization of a job offer for a new account clerk/registrar hire for $15 per hour and a pay increase for a sanitarian-in-training from $17 per hour to now $18.50 per hour.

CORONAVIRUS

When Board Member Dr. Jeff Patey arrived at the meeting Monday, he handed Val Betkoski, director of nursing a stack of confirmed coronavirus case records from his private practice.

“I’ve stopped trying to count the stacks,” said Betkoski. “We just get them entered, now.”

Case reports are also expected to jump at 2 p.m. today when the state releases updated numbers, now that the state will no longer doubly verify case counts differing by antigen test versus diagnostic molecular testing.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the following are the differences in definitions of available tests:

¯ Molecular Test: also known as a diagnostic test, viral test, molecular test, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), RT-PCR test, LAMP test; diagnoses active coronavirus infection; most accurately diagnoses active infection.

¯ Antigen Test: also known as a diagnostic test; can diagnose active coronavirus infection but is more likely to miss an active COVID-19 infection compared to molecular tests. Your health care provider may order a molecular test if your antigen test shows a negative result but you have symptoms of COVID-19.

¯ Antibody Test: also known as a serological test, serology, blood test or serology test; can show if you’ve been infected by coronavirus in the past, but cannot rule out active infection.

Meanwhile, Regional Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Crystal Earley also confirmed Monday that cases are increasing in coronavirus infection confirmations across the region.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, Washington County is within Healthcare Zone 2 of the state tracking of bed capacity and ventilators.

Within Zone 2, Washington County is in Hospital Preparedness Region 8.

Washington County shares that region with Morgan, Noble, Monroe, Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison, Guernsey, Coshocton, Muskingum and Perry counties, of which Earley oversees the dispatch of equipment, field hospital tents and come Dec. 22, vaccinations for first responders in the first round of vaccination distribution.

Athens and Meigs counties are in Region 7, but also within Zone 2.

Within Region 8:

¯ 34 COVID-Positive patients were on a ventilator Monday, 29.57 percent of the total region capacity.

¯ 42 of the region’s intensive care beds were filled with COVID-positive patients, 22 were non-coronavirus related, and 11 remained open Monday.

Of the total in-patient bed capacity for the 11-county region (617 beds), only 19.77 percent of beds remained unoccupied Monday.

Within Region 7:

¯ 11 COVID-positive patients were on a ventilator Monday, 12.22 percent of the total region capacity.

¯ 19 of the region’s intensive care beds were filled with COVID-positive patients, 23 were non-coronavirus related, and 26 remained open Sunday.

Of the total inpatient bed capacity for the 10-county region (595 beds), only 24.79 percent of beds remained unoccupied Sunday.

All of the data above is logged by the Ohio Department of Health.

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