OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has stopped an effort to dissolve the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department by signing a proclamation Dec. 14 that pauses the termination of health departments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This proclamation puts a pause, in effect, on efforts to terminate a health district or a city-county health department, such as what is currently taking place in Pierce County,” Inslee said at a news conference.
Members of the Pierce County Council proposed earlier this month to end the decades-long partnership between the county and the City of Tacoma. It is currently independent of the county. The proposal put forth was reportedly aimed at putting every member of Pierce County Council on the Health Department’s board. (There are currently three councilmembers on the board.)
The plan was met with concern and requests to reconsider, but the council voted to move forward and was scheduled to make a final vote on Dec. 15, before Inslee stepped in, KNKX reported.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department released a statement Dec. 14, thanking those who have advocated for the agency “remaining an independent, neutral, public health department.”
“His (Inslee’s) action to place a pause on any change to the governance structure of a joint city-county health department or district means we can put all of our attention on saving lives, educating people about how to prevent COVID-19, and supporting Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan,” the statement said. “We will continue to stay focused on COVID-19 no matter what.”
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s director is Dr. Anthony Chen. Earlier, he told KING 5 News that the proposal to disband the health agency partnership came as a surprise and that politics should not play a role in public health.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t know why we’re disrupting this right now,” he said at the beginning of the month.
Northwest Asian Weekly contributed to this report.