As the Shasta County Board of Supervisors prepares to consider a 10-point COVID-19 declaration brought by a group of physicians opposed to vaccine mandates, another group of doctors supports a different approach.
In a letter sent to the supervisors on Wednesday, executives representing Redding’s two main hospitals, major nonprofit medical center and other health facilities voiced support for COVID-19 vaccinations.
In the letter, the group also urged medical providers to avoid recommending “unproven” coronavirus medications and treatments.
The letter health executives sent to the supervisors was signed by top officials from Dignity Health/Mercy Medical Center, Shasta Regional Medical Center, Shasta Community Health Center, Hill Country Health and Wellness Center and the Redding Rancheria, which operates a health care network in Shasta and Trinity counties.
The health executives’ letter did not ask for the board’s adoption.
No mandates:Shasta doctors’ objections to vaccine mandates get mixed reaction from supervisors, Redding City Council
“It’s not a disrespect to the doctors who’ve expressed a different opinion — from what I know and see, I think they’re very good doctors,” said Shasta Community Health Center CEO Dean Germano. “But they do not represent the vast majority of physicians in this community. The main purpose of the response was that they do not speak for the mainstream of health care in our community.”
The health executives said they wrote their letter to respond to a group of physicians who held a public forum in Redding during which they said they support the use of vaccines for some individuals, but do not support vaccine mandates, among other things.
The statement from the executive group says that “the presenters of this statement, though respected, do not represent the vast majority of over 400 physicians practicing in Shasta County. They do not represent medical or health care organizations, clinics or hospitals.”
On vaccines, the executive group said, “The vast majority of your medical community is vaccinated. We hoped our residents would follow our lead. COVID-19 vaccines have been extensively tested and found to have an impressive benefit and safety. Currently, over 90% of COVID-19 patients hospitalized locally are unvaccinated, which is evidence of vaccine efficacy.”
Who are the Public Forum doctors?
The group of 44 doctors opposed to mandates calls itself the COVID-19 Public Forum Team and is promoting a 10-point COVID-19 declaration that opposes vaccine mandates; supports vaccination for individuals at high medical risk; and opposes what it calls “mass” COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic people.
The group said this week that it wants to spark “productive dialogue within the local medical community.”
The public forum group is planning a second public forum, on COVID-19 and children. Its 10-point coronavirus declaration expressed concern about the negative physical and psychological impacts that mask-wearing and vaccine mandates have on children.
The public forum group also approves of using various “early treatment protocols” for people who test positive for COVID-19 but aren’t in the hospital. That approach has not received legitimacy from the mainstream medical establishment.
According to the executives group’s letter, “While we are grateful for new medications for the treatment of people with COVID-19, these are not a substitute for vaccinations. For now, the use of unproven medications/treatments should be avoided by our medical community.”
Several of the Public Forum Team’s physicians — including gastroenterologist Dr. Paul Dhanuka, family medicine Dr. James Mu, internal medicine Dr. Neil Louwrens and emergency room Dr. Kathy Reschke — addressed the supervisors and Redding City Council earlier this month.
At the supervisors’ meeting, Supervisor Patrick Jones signaled that the topic of vaccine mandates and mask mandates will continue to be spotlighted by the board, saying he believes it’s the “number one issue of the day.”
Redding council members did not take action on the doctors’ measure, which, like the supervisors meeting earlier in the day, was presented during the public comment period. At the council meeting, Dhanuka said, “Our sincere hope is that this can serve as a future roadmap for this community to come together, unite and find a better path forward.”
After hearing from three of the public forum doctors on Feb. 15, the supervisors voted unanimously to put their declaration on its March 1 agenda for further discussion and potential approval.
Supervisor Joe Chimenti said the supervisors have never been in favor of the coronavirus mandates, but said he was willing to hear more about the declaration.
But Chimenti also questioned the value of continuing the discussion.
“Since we are not a policy-making board when it comes to mandates, no matter how onerous we may believe they are, I don’t know that it’s time well spent,” said Chimenti at that meeting, urging supervisors to instead focus on issues and policies the board is able to change.
Germano stated similar concerns.
“At the end of the day, this group can do what they want to do,” said Germano of the public forum doctors. “And the supervisors will do what they need to do. But as far as the impact on the state and the feds, it will have absolutely zero impact.”
Record Searchlight reporter David Benda contributed to this report.
Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at [email protected] Please support our entire newsroom’s commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.