BOISE, Idaho — The Ada County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 to name Dr. Ryan Cole to the open position on the Central District Health Board Tuesday morning.
Cole, who runs a testing laboratory in Garden City, was running for the open spot against retired orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stanley Moss and infectious disease expert and epidemiologist Dr. Sky Blue. Cole has previously received pushback from other medical professionals after he made comments critical of the COVID-19 vaccine in a presentation to state lawmakers, but later said that he is not anti-vaccine and that he and his family members have gotten vaccinated against other diseases.
Commissioners Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson cast their votes for Cole, while Commissioner Kendra Kenyon cast the lone vote against him.
Commissioners in the other three counties that CDH serves - Boise, Elmore, and Valley counties - will also vote on which of the three candidates they prefer before the appointment is finalized.
The selection process came after Dr. Ted Epperly was removed from his seat on the board in June, a move he called a "political decision" stemming from his support of mask mandates, closures, and other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
State law mandates that one health district board member be a licensed physician.
Davidson, who made the motion to appoint Cole, argued that he was the right choice for the seat.
"I think he has some interesting ideas that we need to introduce into the public discourse," he said. "For basically since the pandemic started, we have gotten the same message from the federal government, which is 'mask, social distance, vaccine, mask social distance, vaccine.'"
Because Cole is "one of the few doctors who have mentioned alternatives to the vaccine," Davidson said, his opinions may resonate more with some Idahoans.
Beck, who seconded the motion, said that he believed "medicine was an inexact science" and that he had received many letters of support for Cole's appointment.
But Kenyon, who voted against the appointment, had sharp words for the choice, telling the other commissioners she was "adamantly opposed" to picking Cole over the subject-matter expert Blue. Doctors from St. Luke's, Saint Alphonsus, Primary Health, and the Veteran's Administration had all thrown their support behind the infectious disease expert as well, she noted.
"I think it is a sad day when this body would go against our medical community," she said.
Kenyon also slammed Cole's comments casting doubt on the COVID-19 vaccine. Health care leaders from across the state have warned amid spiking coronavirus case rates that more Idahoans must get vaccinated to slow the spread of the illness, and that nearly 100% of patients currently in the ICU or dying of COVID-19 had not been vaccinated
"I think comments he has made calling the vaccine a 'clot shot,' 'needle rape,' saying that vaccines are poisonous and killing our population and we need to stop them now - and then he turns around and makes money off it, and his family is vaccinated - just flies in the face of ethics to me," Kenyon said. "I'm just really disappointed."
Commissioners in Valley, Elmore, and Boise counties will now weigh in on the candidates.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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