‘Not acceptable’: Ashland County Commissioner says county health department needs to stay open

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ASHLAND, Ohio (WJW) — An Ashland County Commissioner says he was concerned after learning Ashland County Health Department officials closed their building for more than a week.

“Not acceptable,” said Ashland County Commissioner Denny Bittle about the department not being open for several days. “We can’t just close county buildings.”

Health Commissioner Heather Reffett issued a press release July 24 saying the offices would be closed and employees would be working from home. Bittle says the matter was never discussed with officials.

“I got a call from an official at Ashland University saying no one could reach the health department,” Bittle told the I-TEAM Thursday. “They got kids from out of state coming in, they need to have their ducks in a row, and I am sure they do, but they wanted some guidance from our health department. They called and there was no response.”

Reffett said during a health board meeting Wednesday that she had employees work for home due to safety concerns. She said she and her staff have received threats. She also said she was concerned about employees becoming ill with COVID-19.

“I cannot afford a nurse to get sick or physically harmed,” Reffett said.

A video of the meeting was recorded by Ashland resident Joe Lyons and posted on the Ashland County Pictures Facebook page.

Bittle said he did not know about the threats and said reports were not made with the Ashland County Sheriff’s office. He said county officials will follow up with the health department staff on the safety concerns.

Bittle said the health department was open Thursday. Reffett did not return an email asking for a statement on the matter.

“We want everyone to feel safe when they work,” Bittle said. “As county staff members, however, we have responsibility to the public. If you don’t want that responsibility than don’t work for the county, don’t work for the health department, don’t work for the sheriff ,don’t work for us .”

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