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Update: Calaveras Public Health Officer Resigns

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Update at 7 p.m.:  Clarke Broadcasting contacted Calaveras County Supervisor Board Chair Merita Callaway to get her reaction to the resignation of 20-year veteran county health officer Dr. Dean Kelaita due what he called the “political climate” surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. She responded, “I was surprised but not surprised. I don’t think I was cognizant of the political duress that he was under. Callaway added, “Enough is enough, he’s a great asset and I’m sorry that he’s leaving though I understand the pressure on him.”

As reported below, in his written statement regarding his resignation, Dr. Kelaita did not single out any situation or event that caused him to call it quits. Callaway surmises, “I think it’s just a culmination of what he has to go through with the state and people in the county. He’s been threatened and people saying, ‘How can you close down businesses? You need to loosen the rules.’”

The health department is currently on the hunt to find an interim health officer. Callaway knows finding a new permanent officer could be a challenge especially as Tuolumne County is also in the same boat searching for a replacement, as reported here. Regarding what Dr. Kelaita’s departure means for the county, Callaway states, “It’s a loss to have Dr. Kelaita whose objective has always been the health of the residence of Calaveras County. I am sure public health will continue to do the leadership that he gave to public health.”

Dr. Kelaita will give his final coronavirus update to the board of supervisors at their Oct. 13th meeting. His last day on the job is Friday, Oct. 16th.

We also reached out to Dr. Kelaita for further comment on his resignation but have not received any response at this time. Further details on his departure are below.

Original post at 5:15 p.m.: San Andreas, CA — After 20 years Dr. Dean Kelaita is calling it quits and in a written statement cites the “political climate” around the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for his departure.

“I have always strived to assist community leaders and decision-makers through providing unvarnished medical and scientific information, as well as technical expertise unbiased by subjectivity or partisan influence. Under the current political climate, this is no longer possible. Due to these considerations, I am resigning as Health Officer,” stated Dr. Kelaita. “I am confident that under the leadership of Health and Human Services Agency Director Kristin Stranger and excellent public health professional staff, they will continue to guide the community through the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the health of our residents.”

Dr. Kelaita did not elaborate on that “political climate” or point to any specific incident that prompted his resignation. It is also unclear if his departure is immediate.

In the county’s public health department bi-weekly written COVID-19 update that included the announcement of Dr. Kelaita’s departure, officials stated that the department is “working to secure interim Health Officer support and will provide more information to the public soon.”  Public Health and Human Services Agency officials praised Dr. Kelaita for providing “duties for our community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Also noted was his “medical oversight and informed decision making for 23 different elected county supervisors during his tenure” and his “guided public health measures during significant public health crises including multiple disease outbreaks, the events of 9/11 and bioterrorism threats, H1N1 swine influenza, natural disasters such as the Butte fire, and now the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.”

Clarke Broadcasting reached out to Dr. Kelaita and public health officials for further comment but so far no response has been given.

In addition, the update relayed that the county had five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 with two of those cases related to the Avalon Health Care San Andreas nursing home outbreak. The new cases include one female and two males between 50 to 64 years of age, and one female and one male over the age of 65. Districts 1 and 4 each had two cases and District 5 had one.

The county remains in the moderate county risk level (orange) on the state’s 4- tier COVID-19 color-coded system for business restrictions. Currently, the county has a total of 329 confirmed coronavirus cases 184 are females and 145 males with the highest number, 136, in the 18-49 age group. There have been 306 cases recovered, 9 active and 14 confirmed deaths related to the virus.