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Tuolumne County’s Interim Health Officer’s Term Ends Next Week

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Sonora, CA – The term for Tuolumne County’s Interim Public Health Officer ends next week and so far, there is no one hired to take her place as the county’s COVID-19 numbers are spiking.

Just this week, 43 positive cases of coronavirus were confirmed, and Public Health Officer Dr. Liza Ortiz warned that if this trend continues there could be shutdowns, as reported here. Her three-month contract with the county ends on Thursday (July 9th). CAO Tracie Riggs admits it is a thankless job.

“This is the most difficult times ever for our public health officers,” states Riggs. “They’re under incredible pressure. They’re trying to balance all of the needs of what they see medically as well with all of the needs of people and what it is that they want, which is never an easy place to be.”

The state has already lost over eight public health officers that have either been fired or walked out due to the coronavirus, relays Riggs. She shares, “Dr. Ortiz and her staff have been working around the clock seven days a week…They’ve been doing this for months.”

Luckily, Dr. Ortiz has agreed to continue in the position for 30-day intervals until the position is filled. Not an easy task, as the county has been searching for a replacement since February when the board dismissed Dr. Bob Bernstein from the post just before the pandemic hit, as detailed here.

“We would put someone in immediately if we had the right person,” declares Riggs, “We just have to find them,”

And they may have, Riggs relays there is one candidate vying for the job that has met the minimum qualifications. She did not disclose his name but says he is from outside the county. However, Riggs says getting to the hiring stage could take time, explaining, “We’ll have to interview him, bring him in and do a background check. If he is a good fit, it could be that we could begin moving him into the position and it would allow Dr. Ortiz to begin moving out of her position.”

Riggs will have a meet and greet with the potential candidate on Friday (July 10th) and  says she is hopeful he will fit the bill.