Daryl Grigsby: My trust is with Dr. Kellermann and county health officials
Every time I open the daily newspaper I am saddened, and sometimes overwhelmed, at the continuous flow of bad news. The recent commentary by Ken Paige calling for the resignation of Nevada County Health Officer Scott Kellermann, interim Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet, and Health and Human Services Director Ryan Gruber was a recent unsettling read.
Paige cites an incident that Dr. Kellermann says was a joke as reason for his lengthy call for resignations and terminations. I would contend that Paige, and those who align with his beliefs, have been long in wait for any reason to demand Dr. Kellermann’s resignation. Since Kellermann’s acceptance of the difficult job as health officer, many have opposed his advice, caution and wisdom.
From what I understand, Dr. Scott Kellermann came out of a well-deserved retirement to tackle a job that hundreds of others in the nation were fleeing. Health directors have been worn down by public resistance to facts, continuous threats, lack of consistent law enforcement support and virulent polarization. In spite of that context, Dr. Kellermann left his retirement to assume the task for protecting our collective health.
What I know of Dr. Kellermann is he has spent a lifetime in service to humanity through the medical profession. This service includes time in African countries serving populations who would crave the kind of medical services we take for granted. His service was not a few days or weeks — but 13 years of listening, healing and working among the people of Uganda.
All of the individuals whom Paige publicly demands a termination or resignation are people who have served us at great cost. Among those costs are stress levels, hours and days away from family, and other stressors too numerous to mention.
I am in a small group with Dr. Kellermann. He often leaves our meetings to, as he says, meet with those who disagree to seek common ground and bridges to collaborative solutions.
Dr. Kellermann, and those county officials who work alongside him, are doing their best in the midst of an unprecedented — at least in our lifetime — public heath crisis. This crisis includes uncertainty, changing conditions, and a virus that cares little about our politics, protestations of freedom or county boundaries.
Another issue I have with the Paige column is his reference to race. He notes that someone says if Kellermann made the same type of joke about racial crimes, “people would lose it.’” Here’s my problem with that comment. I have noticed a disturbing trend — that some people, when trying to make a point, bring up, “What if this was a black issue?”
My problem with that is that it seems to come from someone who is otherwise uninvolved in struggles for racial justice. From my perspective they use black pain to illustrate a point on an entirely different issue. I say, make your point, but leave me out of it. Unless of course I can count on you in the difficult work for racial justice. But I do digress.
There are no words to describe how sad I am that a cloth mask has become a divisive political issue. Based on my studies of American history, and even more, my own experiences in America, I have long believed my beloved country has many flaws. Yet, if someone told me that we’d be deeply polarized over a simple partial solution to the spread of a virus that as of today has killed 628,000 Americans, I would not have believed it.
Dr. Kellermann and the rest of the county staff guiding us through these perilous times have my full support. When I was in the public sector I was incident commander or field operations director in various city and county emergency operations centers on several occasions. Those lasted days, not months. We had one goal — how to best protect the public we were paid to serve. I have no doubt that Kellermann and the county are doing the same and more, not for days, but for as long as it takes.
I’ve been watching this issue and debate carefully, and it’s clear to me which side can be trusted — my trust is with Dr. Kellermann and the county staff.
Daryl Grigsby lives in Nevada City.
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“You’ve heard me say this before: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state” — Cal Fire Director Thom Porter.