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Dickinson County Commissioners want the public to know that they — as the elected officials — have the final say if any health orders are issued.

They emphasized that despite comments being made on social media, one man — the county health officer — is not issuing orders on his own.

“The final authority is still you three as the elected county commission and the county board of health,” explained County Administrator Brad Homman. “You do have the authority to override the county health officer if you so choose.”

Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson said Thursday the commission wants people to understand they want schools and businesses to remain open, but they also want to protect the safety of all citizens.

In recent weeks, concern has been expressed on social media, through letters and emails to county commissioners and in other forums by members of the public regarding fears that the health officer Dr. Brian Holmes — on his own — will close businesses and issue other orders.

Homman explained that from the time the COVID-19 pandemic started, Dr. Holmes, health department director John Hultgren, Homman and the commis-sion has worked together and that will continue.

“If there was something that warranted looking at some type of order, either to close a business or mandate a masking order, whatever that might be, John Hultgren and I and Dr. Holmes would work together on that. Then it would come to you guys and we’d present that to you,” Homman told commissioners.

“Nothing would be approved until everyone was on the same sheet of music and you guys had approved,” Homman said. “For the individuals out there concerned about one man having the authority to shut down society that would not happen.

“That would have to come from you as the county board of health,” he said.

That said, Homman noted the county is fortunate to have the expertise of a medical doctor to rely on during this pandemic.

“Quite honestly a lot of counties don’t have that benefit, because they can’t get a physician that’s willing to do that for obvious reasons, or they’ve appointed a health director or some lay person that might have a little medical training,” Homman added.

“Contrary to what people might say now, I think it’s extremely beneficial to have someone with his expertise giving us that guidance.”

Peterson said the county commission, Holmes and everyone at the county wants schools and businesses to remain open.

“I think some of the concern of some business people and some of the public out there is that something could go wrong and they would be closed down for two weeks or something like that,” Peterson said.

“That’s not necessarily the case. We want to keep schools open, our businesses to be kept open. It’s important,” Peterson added. “But having said that, we still have to be cautious. It’s the responsible thing to do because we’re really trying to mitigate and reduce the exposure and risk (of COVID-19) and ensure there’s safety measures in place.”

 

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com

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