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Politics & Government

Central District Health Board Wants More Oversight Of COVID-19 Guidance

Former Congressman Raul Labrador, dressed in a suit, speaks to a crowd.
Office of Rep. Raul Labrador
Former Congressman Raul Labrador, seen here in an undated file photo. On Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, he and other board members urged Central District Health staff to let the board approve COVID-related guidance and recommendations.

Central District Health board members want a say over what COVID-related guidance is given to schools and other entities.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all students and school staff should wear masks — regardless of their vaccination status — to help cut down the spread of COVID-19.

Central District Health embraced those guidelines and recommended them to schools in the four-county area.

But Raul Labrador, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus and a recent addition to the board, said Friday that he and other board members should’ve been consulted first.

“Many businesses, schools, government entities in the state started looking at that guidance as if it was something that had come directly from the board,” Labrador said.

He also took issue with the nation’s public health agency in general.

“In my opinion, the CDC sometimes comes out with statements that are more politicized than they’re science-based,” Labrador said.

Studies have repeatedly shown masks are effective in curbing transmission of the coronavirus. Like last year, each local school board will determine whether masks will be mandated in their schools.

The health board only meets eight times per year.

CDH Director Russ Duke said getting approval for every public health recommendation could block officials from giving timely guidance.

“It’s kind of pointless to wait for two months when the schools are waiting,” Duke said.

Another board member, Elt Hasbrouck, said he doesn’t want to “shackle” CDH staff from doing their jobs.

“Maybe, perhaps, this would be policy just for the coronavirus, not all of the other aspects that we do as a health district,” Hasbrouck said.

CDH oversees the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program, monitors algae blooms, and inspects septic systems, among many other things.

Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett), who’s also on the board, agreed. Blanksma also said staff shouldn’t be held back from sharing local data on infections, hospitalizations, or vaccination rates.

“It’s one thing to release that as local data than it is to talk about double masking and all of these other things that are kind of in the periphery,” she said.

Staff will draft a new policy that the board could consider at their next meeting in October.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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