The stalled health board appointment of a Montana doctor who’s pushed unproven treatments for COVID-19 has triggered outrage among her local supporters, with one city council candidate making the wild suggestion that there’s a conspiracy afoot involving Black Lives Matter activists.
Dr. Dianna Carvey, who appears on a list of doctors who promote the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as treatment for the virus, had nearly secured a seat on the Lincoln County Health Board when county commissioners voted in favor of her appointment during an Oct. 13 meeting.
The three commissioners had unanimously decided—without opening up the move to public comment—that Carvey would fill a seat vacated by Dr. Sara Mertes, who died in a plane crash in August. The group picked Carvey over her top competitor, Dr. Gregory Rice, a recently retired physician who has frequently promoted vaccination as among the best defenses to curtail the virus. But just days after Carvey’s selection, the commissioners abruptly walked it back over criticism they’d skipped public comment ahead of the vote, opting to go through the process again.
That decision didn’t sit well with everyone.
“I am hearing that BLM is very much involved in this,” Libby City Council candidate Darrel Orr, a fierce opponent of public health measures, said during the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners’ Oct. 20 meeting when commissioners announced they had been too hasty in her appointment.
“When it does come up a week from now, I expect any discussions you guys had with BLM to be made public so we know who is lobbying you behind the scenes.”
Orr previously failed in attempting to get commissioners to dissolve the health board or boot members who had refused to fire the county’s top health officer, who enacted measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to curb the spread of the virus.
Carvey was named among a cohort of doctors highlighted by Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance whose president, Dr. Pierre Kory, has championed ivermectin as a “effectively a ‘miracle drug’ against COVID-19.”
Her appointment wasn’t necessarily inevitable. The county board of health, which recommends appointees to the commissioners had a split vote, with half gunning for her opponent, Rice, who has encouraged vaccination and masking as measures to combat COVID-19 and protect against illness in a county that has flagged in vaccinations against coronavirus.
Last month, when the county’s vaccination rate hovered at just 36 percent, Rice flat out suggested that the low vaccination rate would cost lives.
“That means hospitalization rates and death rates are going to be way higher for our county than say a county like in Seattle where there is 60 to 70 percent COVID vaccinated,” he said.
In an email to The Daily Beast on Thursday, Lincoln County’s Board of Health Chair Jan Ivers, who had backed Rice’s candidacy, said she has known Rice for 19 years and that although officially retired, Rice “has kept up with the CDC and FDA guidelines regarding prevention and treatment.”
“I have no knowledge as to Dr. Rice’s involvement in BLM,” she added.
Brent Teske, the commissioner who originally nominated Carvey for the role, declined The Daily Beast’s request to comment on Thursday.
Commissioners Josh Lechter and Jerry Bennett did not immediately return a request for comment from The Daily Beast on Thursday.
Explaining his vote to the Western News, Lechter said it was Carvey’s “willingness to try new things” that made her stand out as a top candidate for the role.
“I want to rely on Carvey’s track record, her openness and willingness to try new things, to do what works, watch what is working and not just stick to some kind of national protocol that we don’t know if it even is working,” he said. “She’s opened-minded. She saves a lot of lives in Eureka. She doesn’t have an agenda.”
Lechter, who previously promoted ivermectin and vitamin supplements as an answer to a COVID-19 surge in the state, said that the board would “do the process again,” after failing to ask for public comment before appointing Carvey.
“Last meeting, most of the attendees were from the board of health and we assumed they had made their public comments the night before,” Letcher told Western News. “We didn’t ask for public comment. Because we didn’t ask for it, now we’re going to do the process again and take in the public comment.”
In spite of earlier failures to allow public comment, Lechter claimed he had received dozens of letters boosting Carvey ahead of the vote. Bennett said he had received 23 emails in support of her.
If appointed, Carvey would likely tilt the board away from health expertise that has encouraged measures like social-distancing, vaccination, and masks to slow the spread of the virus under the direction of Health Officer Brad Black.
Lincoln County’s Board of Health has been rattled by a series of sudden departures in recent months.
Laura Crismore, a health board member with a master’s degree in health administration who resigned in January, cited in an email to the town’s mayor, Brent Teske, that she had heard “several times” at health board meetings “that we need more on the board that are not strictly medical.”
Several of the county’s Board of Health members have regularly touted vitamin supplements and healthy living over vaccines and masking to slow the spread of the virus.
Board member Patricia Kincheloe, has promoted eating healthy and vitamin supplements alongside positivity as defenses against the virus. Another board member, Debra Armstrong, has stopped short of promoting vaccinations, and did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Thursday about whether Carvey’s apparent backing of unproven treatments for COVID-19 should be disqualifying.
But even after announcing plans to allow public comment, Teske remained adamant that Carvey was the obvious choice.
“It’s what’s best for Lincoln County,” Teske said.