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San Benito County’s interim public health officer resigns

DR FENSTERSHEIB 2

HOLLISTER, Calif. (KION)

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, interim San Benito County Public Health Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib has resigned from his position.

It comes after a contentious Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, where Dr. Fenstersheib called for a cautious roll out of easing restrictions. Some Supervisors argued that more attention needs to be paid to the local economy and businesses.  Most aggressively, Supervisor Peter Hernandez, a local business owner himself, said that Dr. Fenstersheib had previously ignored the concerns of the Board and explained that businesses will have a hard time enforcing the new face covering rule – and even compared Dr. Fenstersheib’s actions to that of a monarch, since the health officer position is not an elected office.

A long speech by Hernandez ended with the Supervisor asking to end their relationship with the health officer.

“If we don’t come up with an exemption process and risk assessment guidelines, which I get you’re definitely working on, and an immediate roll out of lifting the burden on those business before the shelter-in-place ends May 4, I would ask the Board for support ultimately to terminate our relationship with you,” Hernandez said.

When given the opportunity to respond, Dr. Fenstersheib replied "I hear what (Hernandez) said and I appreciate his comments."

Before Hernandez’s speech Fenstersheib said - “we’re not seeing a lot of cases because of what we have done, and the way in which we have responded has kept us in pretty good shape, and I would like to continue that and slowly open up our economy and do it in a strategic manor.”

Multiple supervisors, including Mark Medina and Anthony Botelho, quickly jumped to Fenstersheib’s defense. While they both said they would like businesses to open more quickly, they argued that the health officer is making decisions based on the statistics and guidelines put in place by Governor Newsom. Health officers can make their orders more restrictive, not less restrictive, than the state’s.

After Hernandez’s comments, Medina said to Hernandez, “there is definitely an issue here, or else you would be here right now. But you’re at home.”

San Benito County has 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases, but only five cases are considered active. 43 people have recovered.

After the meeting, Supervisor Botelho told KION that Dr. Fenstersheib and the Board didn’t see eye to eye when it came to how the county should handle the process of opening up.  At around 5 p.m. Tuesday, local media was informed that San Benito County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa accepted Dr. Fenstersheib’s resignation.

Dr. David Ghilarducci, San Benito County’s Emergency Medical Services Director, will be the Interim Public Health.

Dr. Fenstersheib has been with the county for the last four years, but before that he spent a significant amount of time with Santa Clara County, including as Health Officer.  

ORIGINAL REPORT:

Interim Public Health Officer, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, submitted his resignation Tuesday, according to county officials.

Dr. David Ghilarducci, the county's Emergency Medical Services Director, has been named the new Interim Public Health Officer for San Benito County.

County staff and the Board of Supervisors said they wanted to thank Dr. Fenstersheib for his service over the past four years.

The county said public health officials and the Roadmap to Recovery Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss plans moving forward.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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