OTTAWA COUNTY, MI – The potential new leader of the Ottawa County Health Department is anti-mask and has publicly opposed social distancing guidelines put in place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His qualifications, which will be part of a review by the state health department, include a master’s degree from a private, for-profit online college.
Nate Kelly, a Hudsonville resident who currently works at an HVAC utility company, is the choice to lead the Ottawa County Health Department by the new far-right majority on the county Board of Commissioners. Once the paperwork is submitted, the state of Michigan will have to decide if he’s worthy of the job.
Kelly, who was one of several high-profile and controversial changes made to the county council’s organizational meeting this week, told attendees of a Conservative summit in August that she would have handled things very differently if she had overseen the health department. of Michigan during the pandemic.
In a speech at America’s Frontline Industrial Hygienists & Multidisciplinary Support Summit, Kelly said he would send all Michigan families “Prophylactic Medicines and Tools” and “Zinc, Vitamin D with K2, Vitamin C, Ivermectin and NAC.” She would also send each family a neti pot, which is used to rinse mucus from the nose.
“No business would shut down,” Kelly told the summit, saying he would order businesses to install HVAC devices and change their air filters.
“No masking of any kind would be suggested,” Kelly said. “No social distancing would be suggested as it has no basis in any proven science. No mass testing for asymptomatics. Asymptomatic people do not transmit diseases”.
Many of these ideas directly contradict guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Ivermectin, which is primarily used on farm animals to treat parasites, is not recommended by the FDA for the treatment of COVID-19.
These positions have led some in Ottawa County to question whether Kelly is qualified to lead the county health department.
The only Republican county commissioner not supported by the far-right group Ottawa Impact, Roger Bergman, said he wasn’t sure Kelly should lead the department.
“First of all, I don’t know if he’s qualified,” Bergman said of Kelly. “I think the state won’t approve that for our health department. I don’t know how they would.”
According to Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as of Thursday afternoon the state still has not received an official request from Ottawa County to review Kelly’s nomination.
Sutfin said in an email that “a local government agency must submit evidence of qualifications to MDHHS to appoint a new health officer, including the candidate’s resume and transcripts.”
The minimum qualifications for the position of administrative health officer include holding a master’s degree in public health and “three years of full-time administrative experience in public health,” according to state documents.
If his appointment is approved by the state, he will be able to establish county health care policies and comply or reject statewide health care mandates in the future.
Kelly’s wife, who is an outspoken anti-mask advocate, posted a video on her Facebook page Wednesday morning after the county council meeting discussing her husband’s possible new job.
In the video, she said her husband will not speak to any media until or if he is approved for the job by the state. Nate Kelly did not respond to MLive’s interview request.
“My husband is more than qualified and I’m very happy for him,” Kristen Meghan Kelly said in the video. “I know he will only do things based on scientific data and verifiable facts. As someone who was heavily influenced by the improper and tyrannical policies through our former health officer, I’m just happy to see someone I know will never allow themselves to be weaponized. (He) will ensure that science is not politicized.
According to information provided to county commissioners shortly before her appointment, Kelly earned a master’s degree in public health and a master’s degree in occupational health and industrial hygiene from Columbia Southern University. The university is a private, for-profit online institution based in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Prior to his work as a health and safety manager at HVAC company Pleune, Kelly was employed as an occupational safety and health engineer at Zealand manufacturing company Plascore Inc.
If approved by the state, Kelly will replace Adeline Hambley as administrative health officer. Previous county leaders handpicked in-house candidate Hambley to replace longtime county employee Lisa Stefanovsky for the role, but that decision was overturned on Tuesday with Kelly being appointed to the post.
Since Kelly was nominated on Tuesday, a video shot in 2021 featuring Kelly, his wife and the leader of far-right activist group Stand Up Michigan has circulated online. In the video, Kelly is dressed as a woman and mimics Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s sign language translator who has appeared in several of the governor’s COVID-19 update messages.
Bergman said he saw the video Thursday morning.
“I thought, ‘Are you kidding, this is what they put on?’ It’s a shame,” Bergman told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. “(Ottawa Impact) is looking for people who support their ideology and with this person, they’re all the same far-right ideas.
“Suddenly it becomes a political office and until now it was not. It shouldn’t be political.”
Bergman said he expects county health department employees to be as shocked by Kelly’s appointment as he was. In addition to managing pandemics and epidemics, the county health department conducts food safety inspections of restaurants and concession stands, in addition to the medical branch of the department.
“In addition to that, they still have this requirement that kids have to be vaccinated before they go to school,” Bergman said of the department’s role. “I’m all of these things. If these people don’t believe in vaccinations, what happens then?
The lone Democrat on the county council, Doug Zylstra, said he was concerned if Kelly is confirmed for the position the county won’t be able to retain health department employees.
“The health department over the last two or three years, it’s been a very difficult time,” Zylstra told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. “I started seeing some videos of (Kelly) and this is not encouraging. Dedicated employees want to keep the public safe and keep them healthy and if that gentleman comes in, he’s not going to do well.
“The state has seen the same videos that residents have seen and I hope they take note.”
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