Emergency meeting addresses Jefferson County Health Department Shelter in Place Order
SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Tuesday afternoon, the Jefferson County Commission held an emergency meeting, to discuss the Jefferson County Health Department Shelter in Place Order issued in response to Governor Jim Justice’s Executive Order 9-20.
Since the meeting could not be held in-person, due to the need for the council members to practice social distancing, it was held online through the GoToMeeting app.
The main concern raised in the meeting, was over the language of the executive order.
“I think the communication and interpretation is causing some local residents and business owners some stress. I’ve heard conflicting statements of what the order was written as, and what it was meant to be understood as. I think the government should give some clarification for folks,” said councilman Josh Compton.
According to Compton, the order said each health department was in charge of implementing the order in its respective county, which would include making county-wide decisions. However, people were questioning if the county commissions should be the ones making decisions for the county.
“The board authorized Dr. Reidy to act on some issues. The reason that that was important was because these things are rapidly developing,” said Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Cochran, referring to JCHD Health Officer Dr. Terrence Reidy.
Cochran said he was the person to “define the details of the order” and determine which organization should issue the countywide order.
“The Jefferson County order is from the Health Department. There’s a very good reason for that,” Cochran said. “With the West Virginia Code operative statute for action in quarantines, the work put on that is on the health department. I believe the governor’s executive order put these issues squarely on the health department, and that’s where we went.
“The alternative to having someone like Dr. Reidy to make these decisions as the days go on, is to have the Board of Health convening multiple times a day. It’s unworkable,” Cochran said. “It’s not a tyranny to try to destroy people. It’s to try to save lives. That’s the goal of the health department, to save lives!”
In consideration of the confusion of local residents over this issue, the JCC unanimously approved a motion to ask for clarification on the subject.
“The motion is to, through the Jefferson County Department of Health, request clarification on the governor’s order on essential services, in writing of some sort — text, email, whatever,” said JCC President Jane Tabb.
Tabb encouraged county residents with further concerns to email their county commissioners. Email addresses for all commissioners are available at www.jeffersoncountywv.org/county-government/elected-officials/county-commission/commissoners.
To read the full executive order, visit www.wvlegislature.gov/legisdocs/misc/Exec-Order-9-20-20200323.pdf.