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Local health departments under the weather

As the nation kicked off National Public Health Week, turmoil and change has continued in local administrations.

¯ Marietta-Belpre Health Department

Concerns about the joint health department encompassing both of Washington County’s cities have residents and other health workers questioning the impacts on elderly and homeless or transient individuals’ access to coronavirus vaccination in the middle of a pandemic.

Marietta Law Director Paul Bertram confirmed Monday the department remains under investigation by both city administrations and by the (Ohio) State Employee Relations Board for the removal of former Director of Nursing Vickie Sawyer, which followed the exit in 2020 of Director of Nursing Beth Casto and the resignation this year of Health Commissioner Anne Goon.

Now the latest exit includes a registrar, Rachel Self, who was let go at the conclusion of her 180-day probationary period last week.

When Bertram was asked if Self was fired, he confirmed.

“That’s my understanding, yes,” he said.

Bertram said he would not comment on the active investigation into the nursing side of the department or about handlings of vaccination disbursement.

Mayor Josh Schlicher, who was appointed by the joint health district board as spokesperson throughout the tumult of the commissioner’s exit, shared Monday that some of the vaccinations held within the department are for second doses for individuals who have already been served the first dose of either of the mRNA vaccines supplied in the early months of this year (Pfizer or Moderna).

“As of right now they have got 1,400 doses and they are scheduled in the next two weeks to give out 607 second doses,” said Schlicher.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine supplied through Memorial Health System’s first mass vaccination clinic this past weekend (and being continued) and the one supplied separately through the Ohio University mobile clinic visiting Cutler Thursday are a vector vaccine and are separately supplied via the Ohio Department of Health rather than through the county/joint municipal health departments.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines act like instruction cards for a human’s cells to learn how to fight against a virus without formal exposure to the virus like COVID-19, while vector vaccines inject a weakened virus that has genetic components of the COVID-19 inside of it.

¯ Washington County Health Department

While scrutiny of the county health department saw formal bylaws adopted for the first time last month for the District Advisory Council, which selects membership for the county health board; the tumult of the county department started long before March 2020.

But last week saw the official beginning of a new administrator, filling the seven-month vacant role left by the resignation of Roger Coffman in November 2020.

“I think that the week I have been there, I see a path forward where we’re going to absolutely continue the services that we currently have and hopefully expand into other services that the residents of Washington County will benefit from,” said Jim Carpenter.

As a fresh face to the department, Carpenter, of Marietta, joins the department after a six-year employment with Michael Bradley and Iddings Logistics, which followed the co-ownership and presidency of human resources and operations for a Columbus-based consulting firm, according to his resume submitted to the board.

“Basically, human resources and leadership consulting was my specialty,” said Carpenter. “How people could make things more efficient for implementing people systems, and leadership roles.”

Carpenter is also a graduate of Marietta College’s psychology bachelor’s program.

Carpenter’s first official regular board meeting will be Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the county’s emergency operations center at 204 Davis Ave., Marietta, a location selected for proper social distancing measures.

***

Get Your Shot

Marietta Mass Vaccination Clinic Schedule:

¯ When:

¯ Thursdays: 5-8 p.m.

¯ Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

¯ How to sign up:

¯ Book online at www.gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. (Enter ZIP code 45714 or 45750 in the search bar.)

¯ Book by phone at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634); or for those without access to the internet or in need of assistance in scheduling an appointment for the vaccination, call 740-373-5892.

Managed by: Memorial Health System, with support from the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

Learn more: Visit www.mhsystem.org/coronavirus/ or call 1-844-877-4148.

Southeast Ohio Mobile Clinic:

This mobile clinic operated by Ohio University will visit various sites in southeast Ohio.

¯ Meigs County: Racine Methodist Church, 818 Elm St., Racine; Tuesdays: April 13, April 27 and May 11.

¯ Morgan County:

¯ Morgan West Elementary School, 9675 West State Route 37, Malta; Saturdays: April 10, April 24.

¯ Heck Harkins Community Center, 1685 Broadway St., Stockport; Thursdays: May 6 and May 20.

Sources: Ohio Department of Health, Memorial Health System and the Washington County Health Department.

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