Vicki Purdy

Southwest District Health Department Board Member Vicki Purdy attended Aug. 11 board meeting via Zoom, during which she suggested the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, on patients with COVID-19. 

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Ada County has extended some restrictions to contain the coronavirus, adding a new prohibition against gatherings of 10 more people, and Valley County now has a mask mandate after an Aug. 11 meeting of the Central District Health Department Board of Health.

"It's finally starting to click with people," said Valley County Commissioner and Board of Health Trustee Elt Hasbrouck, relating a conversation he had with local business owners about how COVID-19 affects overall healthcare capacity. 

The coronavirus has put significant stress on hospitals and public health systems, limiting the number of available intensive care unit beds and ventilators. Surges in cases can also limit access to emergency and other health services, prompting concern among trustees representing outlying counties. 

Valley County's mask mandate was passed on a 5-2 vote.

Ada County, which remains in Stage III of its reopening, and where a mask mandate is already in place, will keep bars and nightclubs where there is on-site consumption of beverages under quarantine, with limited exceptions. A strengthened proscription against gatherings of 10 or more has also been issued. 

Meanwhile, a different tone was struck at the Board of Health meeting for the Southwest District Health Department, where one commissioner, Vicki Purdy of Adams County, told other commissioners that lower Vitamin D levels among some racial groups contribute to higher susceptibility to COVID-19 infection, and promoted the use of unproven treatments, including hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial that has been promoted by President Donald Trump for use on coronavirus patients. 

"There’s something else you’re missing when it comes to the Hispanic, Black and Asian populations: They’re all very low naturally in Vitamin D, and that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last couple of meetings, is why haven’t we been telling people they need to check their Vitamin D levels, taking Vitamin D, Zinc?" she said. "And is there something else we need to consider here as a board to push forward a protocol of hydroxychloroquine, an early protocol when they get COVID so they don’t end up with lung damage, so they don’t end up in the hospital? There are studies all over the world now; there’s no denying that it works; so can we make a motion to push this forward, have the state do something and get it out there and prescribe it as needed?"

Purdy's comments released a flurry of responses from doctors and public health experts who were party to the meeting, among them the board's physician representative, Dr. Sam Summers, who said the drug, as well as the other over-the-counter remedies she mentioned, have been shown to have no effect on COVID-19. According to a randomized trial of hydroxychloroquine published in The New England Journal of Medicine, there was no meaningful difference between people exposed to COVID-19 and treated with the drug and those who received a placebo.

As for the claim about Vitamin D, an article published in the July 1 issue of The Lancet indicated that lower levels of the vitamin are associated with poorer outcomes from coronavirus, particularly the elderly; and that people belonging to ethnic groups with darker skin—who are more likely to have Vitamin D deficiency because of their skin tone—were "more than four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than other people," according to statistics from the United Kingdom. In the U.K., public health officials recommended Vitamin D supplements, though the relationship between Vitamin D and viral agents that cause illness remains a subject of debate.

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