Ottawa County Health Officer chooses social distancing despised

NETHERLANDS, Michigan (WOOD) — The man tapped to be Ottawa County’s new senior health official previously said he does not support COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as social distancing or wearing masks.

As part of a flurry of changes TuesdayOttawa’s new conservative list of county commissioners voted to replace its administrative health officer with Nathaniel Kelly. The Michigan attorney general’s office said Wednesday it was looking into those actions.

Kelly is listed online as a safety manager for Pluene Service Company in Grand Rapids. The company provides services in the field of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. On Tuesday, commissioners said Kelly received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia Southern University, an online university based in Orange Beach, Alabama. The board said she has a master’s degree in occupational health and a master’s degree in public health.

Last year, Kelly said social distancing wasn’t supported by science and said people shouldn’t have been asked to stay home to slow the spread of the virus.

“No social distancing would be suggested as it has no basis in any proven science,” Kelly said at an event. “No mass testing for asymptomatic individuals; asymptomatic individuals do not transmit disease”.

“Most of the population should have been out,” he went on to say. “There’s no other way to put it. You don’t lock up a healthy population for the sake of the sick. We all stay out. Let’s all move forward.”

“As a public health professional, I would have led from the front. You’d see me out—Nate Kelly—you’d see me in hospitals, unmasked, talking to doctors, nurses, medics,” he added.

During the height of the pandemic, West Michigan physicians and health officials at all levels of government, including the Ottawa County Health Department, repeatedly encouraged social distancing and the wearing of masks to slow the spread of the virus. Studies have shown that asymptomatic people could transmit the virus. Data compiled by state epidemiologists showed there was a correlation between people’s travel and the spread of the virus, and many regions across the nation reliably saw spikes in cases after the holiday gatherings.

Adeline Hambley will remain on the administrative health officer on an interim basis, the board resolution said, until Kelly’s hiring is confirmed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. An MDHHS spokesman said proof of qualifications is required, including a resume and transcripts. She hadn’t received it from the county until Wednesday.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health said in a statement to News 8 that no services to the department have been interrupted and that Hambley remains in her role as health officer.

News 8 reached out to Kelly seeking an interview, but received no response Wednesday after it closed for business.

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