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Riverside County supervisors to discuss public health officer's post in closed session

Press-Enterprise - 3/20/2021

Mar. 18—The post of Riverside County's public health officer, who has played a key role in the county's response to the coronavirus pandemic, is the subject of a scheduled closed-door discussion at the Tuesday, March 23, Board of Supervisors meeting.

The agenda lists discussion of an "appointment" for that post, but it's not clear whether supervisors plan to replace Dr. Cameron Kaiser, who has held the job since 2011.

County spokeswoman Brooke Federico said Thursday, March 18, that Kaiser remains the public health officer.

"The board will discuss an appointment on Tuesday," Federico said via text, adding that an announcement could be made afterward if there's a "reportable action" out of closed session, which the board can use under state law to talk about personnel matters.

No written details were included with the agenda item, which reads: "Public Employee Appointment, Title: Public Health Officer."

Board Chairwoman Karen Spiegel did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon. Kaiser and Director of Public Health Kim Saruwatari were not available for interviews, Federico said.

Kaiser was the face of the county's COVID-19 response early in the pandemic, frequently speaking at news conferences and urging the public to do its part to prevent spreading of the virus.

His orders closing schools, banning non-family gatherings, closing golf courses and canceling the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival underscored COVID-19's threat to county residents. As of Thursday, more than 292,000 COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in Riverside County and 4,097 county residents have died from the virus.

Kaiser faced a torrent of public criticism last spring when he required face coverings to be worn in public to prevent the virus's spread. Last May, the board voted unanimously to ask Kaiser to rescind his health orders, including the mask mandate. He did so soon afterward.

Supervisors have not publicly criticized Kaiser's performance. Instead, they've said they asked Kaiser to lift his orders so that county regulations would not be a barrier to businesses reopening when the state eased its coronavirus rules.


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