CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Officials in northern Wyoming have voted to remove Dr. Ed Zimmerman from his position as Washakie County health officer, a decision Zimmerman believes is in response to him implementing a mask mandate.
Washakie County Commission Chair Fred Frandson said Tuesday that Zimmerman’s departure was not a result of the local mask mandate but said he could not discuss why he was removed because the county does not publicly discuss personnel matters, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Zimmerman said there were several health officials who were worried they could lose their jobs by implementing mask mandates.
“It had to do with the health order in some way,” Zimmerman said of him losing his job.
Zimmerman and State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist signed the order last week, which took effect Sunday as the county joined 15 others across the state with similar mask requirements.
Zimmerman said he met with the county’s three commissioners last Tuesday to discuss the forthcoming mandate and said the commissioners “were really, really not happy with me” about the decision.
Zimmerman said he then received a call on Monday from Frandson informing him that his contract was terminated and all his duties would end immediately. Zimmerman said he was not informed of the special meeting Monday where the county commission voted and was not given a reason for his dismissal.
“I’m profoundly disappointed our county commissioners have chosen politics over the health of our residents,” he said.
The decision leaves Washakie County as one of two Wyoming counties without a health officer after Fremont County Health Officer Dr. Brain Gee’s term expired in July.
Frandson said the county started a search to fill the position and has been in contact with three local physicians, one of whom declined to take the job. Harrist is expected to oversee the county’s response to the pandemic until the search ends.
The number of virus infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
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