A Klickitat County Board of Health meeting ended in a plea by County Commissioner Dan Christopher to terminate health officer Dr. Amy Person from her position on the board.
The move to terminate Person from the board, according to Christopher, was tied to a letter Person signed in August, along with other health officials, urging Gov. Jay Inslee to reinstate the mask mandate for vaccinated people.
The motion failed without any support from his two fellow commissioners.
In a prepared statement read during the board meeting, Christopher called for the end of any mandates for vaccinated people to wear masks. The mandate, he said, had not followed data that shows every Klickitat County death or hospitalization for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.
He said in the statement that mask mandates overlooked the “mental health and safety of the one-in-four girls that were sexually molested as children and the one-in-six women who have been forcibly raped.
“My question is, who is looking out for these people that got the vaccine even though they didn’t want it? But they couldn’t have something over their face — a mask or a hand — to bring back memories that trigger panic attacks and PTSD?” Christopher said.
Christopher at times paused for emotion, but his statement sparked criticism from various residents listening in to the meeting.
One attendee called Christopher’s statement “gross” and “traumatizing” to survivors of sexual assault, and doubted his emotions were genuine. In response to the remark made during a public commenting portion of the meeting, Christopher struck an obscene gesture, flipping off his “computer screen,” Christopher said in a statement posted on social media. The gesture was caught on camera, used to record commission meetings.
In the social media post, Christopher acknowledged he made the gesture during the meeting.
“Did I flip off my computer screen yes, but not the camera. Am I sorry for it? Honestly no,” Christopher said. “Somehow, I am supposed to feel sorry for her feelings on being flipped off after she attacked my life, my family history, and my pain? You tell me, would you? Did I have a moment of weakness? Yes, but I will build that into strength.”
While Christopher’s statement during the meeting had not alluded to any family history, his follow-up statement posted on Facebook said: “Does my family have a past we are not proud of, yes? Does it take courage to talk about it publicly? Yes! People shouldn’t be made to feel shame for doing so.”
Person, who was present for the exchange, said in response to Christopher’s statement that “masking absolutely is not intended to be bullying of any sort,” adding that the masking order (enacted in August) recognizes that “individuals who cannot wear masks for physical, mental health, developmental or cognitive reasons are granted exemptions to that.”
Person has served as the health officer for the Benton-Franklin Health District since 2011.