Weekly Whitman County Coronavirus Update Meeting Closed To The Public & Elected Officials

The weekly Whitman County coronavirus update meeting involving representatives from public health and local healthcare providers has been closed to the public.

The Whitman County Commissioners agenda included a zoom link for the public for the last 3 virtual Tuesday meetings.  The link provided to the public on today’s Whitman County Commissioners agenda entitled “Whitman County Weekly Public Health Update” failed to work.

Whitman County Public Health Director Troy Henderson sent out an email to stakeholders after this morning’s meeting announcing the decision to close it to the public.  Henderson said there was confusion about whether the meeting is open to the public.  He reported that the meeting involving healthcare providers and first responders doesn’t meet the requirement to be “public.”  Henderson also noted that elected officials “are not expected to be in attendance” and can be updated by their appropriate representatives.

The weekly Whitman County coronavirus meeting has been held virtually for several months.  The public wasn’t provided access to the meeting until 3 weeks ago when the zoom link appeared on the Whitman County Commissioners agenda.  That link also allowed local reporters to cover the meeting for the first time.

Public access to the meeting revealed details about the local response to the pandemic.  It was during the meeting 3 weeks ago that Washington State University Cougar Health Services Medical Director Dr. Bonnie de Vries admitted that the institution had been slow to respond to the outbreak among students.  During that same meeting WSU officials revealed that the National Guard was being called in to test students.  The first disclosure that Washington Governor Jay Inslee would visit Pullman to discuss the student outbreak was revealed by WSU state lobbyist Colleen Kerr during the meeting on September 8th.

Even though the weekly coronavirus meeting and it’s zoom link have appeared on the Whitman County Commissioners agenda the commissioners do not attend.  The commissioners also serve as the county’s board of public health.