The Pettis County Health Center Board of Trustees discussed the current COVID-19 trends and set the new tax rate during Thursday’s meeting.
During her report, Administrator JoAnn Martin went over the COVID-19 case numbers in the Pettis County COVID-19 Task Force briefing issued Monday. She noted that since July 1, there have been 608 positive tests and 109 tests in children 0-18 years of age, which is 17.93% of cases. At the peak of positive cases in November when there were 1,373 cases, 199 were children 0-18 years of age for a rate of 14.49%.
Board member Brandy Von Holten offered concern about the numbers causing fear in citizens, saying people need to realize the current percentage is higher, but it is from a lower number of overall cases. She said she is worried the Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education, set to have a meeting this month to discuss COVID protocols for the new school year, would use that information to say there is an increase in youth cases. Martin said the percentages are not presented without the total numbers and that the statistics are not presented to scare people.
The board then entered into a discussion about businesses requiring customers and/or employees to be vaccinated.
“The people I represent are trying to avoid getting the vaccine and the businesses are pushing it and every person who wanted to get a vaccine would’ve gotten it, there’s no way they wouldn’t have gotten it but now they are feeling pressure to get jobs,” Von Holten said.
Board member Ann Richardson pointed out that businesses allow for religious and medical exemptions. Board Chairman Phyllis Domann said it is a business’ decision whether to require vaccines.
“It is up to the businesses, but when they see these huge numbers, but when they look at what’s current, whenever they see the percentage of children, as soon as you bring in children, people get a lot more concerned,” Von Holten said. “I realize we don’t tell the businesses what to do, but these numbers appear much scarier than they really are.”
“I disagree, Brandy, I think folks, the chairman of the boards of different businesses, the HR people, they usually have nurses and doctors on staff and I think they do their own reading. They look at this, but they look at other numbers, not just this,” Richardson said.
Martin said most COVID tests in Pettis County that are being screened show the Delta variant. She said watershed samples from Sedalia’s three treatment plants tested by the University of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources showed 100% of the viruses found in the sewage were the Delta variant.
Von Holten said she thinks testing fecal matter isn’t helpful because Missouri and Sedalia are in the middle of the country and have many visitors who may use the restroom while in town.
“This is not diagnostic, this is just another surveillance mechanism that is going on,” Martin explained. “If someone is in our community, if they are using our sewage facility, it doesn’t matter where they live full time, they’re in our community right now, they are interacting with others in our community. They have the potential to share the virus if they are ill. So, therefore, it really doesn’t matter where they’re from.”
Martin said it is the Health Center’s responsibility to share the best information available so citizens can make an informed decision.
“It bothers me greatly when I talk to people who are crying on the phone because they are sick, their loved one is sick, they’ve lost a loved one,” Martin said. “It has taken a toll on us to listen to people. We were so happy when the numbers went down because we didn’t have anyone crying on the phone. Now we have people crying on the phone almost every day. They are saying, ‘what could I have done?’ The best we can say is ‘this is what we have that’s out there.’”
Von Holten implored Martin to have the Health Center suggest people take zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, ivermectin and other possible treatments to help COVID-19.
Martin said the Health Center staff does not offer specific medication advice unless seeing a patient in the clinic and advises people to speak with their primary health care provider. She added that ivermectin is used to treat parasitic worms and is not approved by the FDA to treat COVID.
Von Holten asked if she needed to provide research on her suggestions to Martin.
“No, because we are not going to be making those treatment decisions for providers, that is their world,” Martin replied.
The board hosted a tax rate hearing regarding the 2022 tax rate. No public comments were offered.
Later in the meeting, the board approved 2-1 to increase the property tax rate from 0.0900 to 0.0925 per $100 assessed valuation; Von Holten voted no.
Von Holten expressed concern about the higher tax rate and at one point made a motion to lower the rate to 0.0875; the motion died due to lack of a second.
“I know it’s been a hard year for a lot of people. I foresee a lot of people being unemployed because they won’t be getting the vaccine and maybe we could tighten up a little bit,” Von Holten suggested.
Martin noted the Health Center hopefully won’t be getting any COVID funding in 2022 if the pandemic improves and that much of the property tax revenue pays for the Health Center’s infrastructure.
Von Holten said she was also concerned because “I just know that they (tax rates) never go back down.” Martin explained the rate fluctuates based on assessed property values. In 2019, the rate was 0.0925 and it was lowered to 0.0900 in 2020.
A 14-year-old female and who appeared to be her female parent or guardian were the first to approach the board during public comment. The teen spoke about how the past year affected her, saying she felt she would be yelled at if she didn’t wear a mask and that there has been a spike in teen anxiety. She said she doesn’t think people her age should be made to wear a mask and asked the board to “take this to heart.” All four women — Martin, Domann, Richardson and Von Holten — thanked the teen for coming forward to speak.
The second citizen was a woman who offered comments directed more to the Sedalia school board than the Health Center board. She said her 9-year-old son has allergies and claimed that wearing a mask gave him headaches last year and further compromised his breathing. She claimed the school said he had to wear a mask to attend class. She said she is not opposed to masks or vaccines, noting her three children have all FDA-approved vaccines, but that both should be a choice.
During the meeting, the board also:
• Presented the updated bylaws. The board will vote on the proposal at the next meeting.
• Approved the Code of Ethics.
• Approved hiring a new nursing position that a grant will partially pay.
• Approved hosting board training with a facilitator. Von Holten suggested including the Johnson County Community Health Services board; Martin said she would extend the invite.
Board members Brody Kempton and Amanda McClain were both absent.
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