By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

COVID-19 resolution passes on a split vote

County commissioners voted two to one on Thursday to approve a board order that states they mistrust all data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oregon Health Authority and are affirming that county businesses should not be penalized for violating the governor’s mandates for public safety regarding COVID-19.

Board chair Casey Kulla cast the lone opposing vote, after a lengthy debate among the three, in which Kulla argued the order would open the county to liability and give false hope to business owners that they could reopen in defiance of the governor’s orders. He noted that many e-mails to commissioners in support of the order indicated their belief that it would allow them to reopen.

“Commissioners, you do understand that this is not going to help businesses, right?” Kulla asked in frustration at one point. “Are you truly thinking this is going to keep a business from going out of business? I feel like we’re giving them false hope, to suggest that.”

However, he was outvoted by commissioners Mary Starrett and Rick Olson, who argued that the order would provide a legal defense for businesses should they be fined for violations.

Olson also voted in favor because he objects to the governor’s order to the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the state Liquor Control Commission to enforce the orders.

Before the order can go into effect, however, it must be ratified by the court, which Starrett said could take months.

Starrett, who initially claimed the order would allow businesses to re-open, argued the county “really can’t control what people think it means.”

She suggested it might be a first step.

“I think people have shown us that they are so desperate for some kind of a remedy for their businesses to open that, looking at this, they think of this as perhaps another step in that direction,” she said. “So I guess the way I would look at this is what wound ever heals but by degrees.”

Kulla also pressed county attorney Christian Boenisch to state on the record its insurer, City County Insurance, had warned lawsuits arising from the board order could leave the county without the defense of its insurance policy.

Boenisch argued for holding any such discussions outside public view in executive session, but was overruled by all three commissioners.

“There’s a specific exclusion in our policy if the county were to take an action that was a willful violation of state law … and then there would be some litigation or action brought against the county, then CIS would not be in a position to cover us and we would not be in a position to defend ourselves against that kind of a claim,” Boenisch said.

However, Boenisch said he believes he drafted the language of the resolution carefully enough to avoid the problem.

Starrett used a paper by the anti-vaccine organization The Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge as the basis for her arguments against health data, and invited one of the paper’s author’s, naturopathic doctor Henry Ealy, to speak to the board.

Ealy told commissioners he had submitted a false COVID-19 death report to the state, and is consequently “very concerned” about the vulnerability of the state’s data.

Ealy displayed a slide with the state website, encouraging viewers to “verify it for yourself,” with their own false reports.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, both physicians and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verify all death certificates for people reported to have died of COVID-19, before the deaths are reported by the Oregon Health Authority.

Ealy also claimed hospitalizations from COVID-19 have not increased either in the state, or in Yamhill County.

There have been 22 additional hospitalizations in Yamhill County in the past month, a significant increase over previous months, and the Oregon Health Authority has been warning of increases in hospitalizations statewide for the last several weeks.

Ealy also questioned the accuracy of the PCR tests used to diagnose COVID-19.

After his presentation, Kulla read aloud a statement from county Health and Human Services Director Lindsey Manfrin, stating the PCR tests are used routinely and in many cases are considered more accurate than testing with cultured swabs.


Editor's Note: The following correction to this story was published in the Jan. 5, 2021, issue of the News-Register:

COVID-19-related testimony submitted to Yamhill County commissioners by Dr. Henry Ealy was inaccurately reported in a Dec. 18 News-Register story.

Ealy, who addressed Yamhill County commissioners at their Dec. 17 meeting, challenged these statements from the newspaper story:

“Ealy told commissioners he had submitted a false COVID-19 death report to the state, and is consequently ‘very concerned’ about the vulnerability of the state’s data. Ealy displayed a slide with the state website, encouraging viewers to ‘verify it for yourself,’ with their own false reports.”

Ealy subsequently told the News-Register: “At no time did I encourage anyone to enter fraudulent data. I stated that it could be done, and that the ability to do so can be validated.” Based on review of the recorded testimony, Ealy said both COVID-19 cases and fatalities could be submitted anonymously to the state, adding that it could compromise state data. Others, he said, could verify that for themselves. 

The newspaper requested clarification about what information Ealy submitted anonymously to the state. He did not respond to the request.

The newspaper regrets any error made in reporting that Dr. Ealy submitted a false fatality report or encouraged others to submit fraudulent data to the state.


Bill B

What a joke!


On the front page today next this article is a report that an outbreak at a memory care facility here in McMinnville is tied to 11 deaths and dozens of cases. That is not fake news/science. It is factual. Really, Mary? The Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge? That is the real fake news and it sounds to me as bogus. I am glad we have one commissioner who cares about the safety and health of our citizens!


sure, open it all up...just post a sign on the door: "no tin foil hat, no service....also, please refer all legal matters to Rudy"


What an incredible waste of county resources on a meaningless resolution. Starrett is once again wasting time and resources on another meaningless thing that relies on a naturopath who admits he submitted FALSE information to the state. Every time I think this county can't sink any lower, a new low comes to light. We've been on a continual downhill trajectory at the county for nearly 20 years - ever since Leslie Lewis set foot in the building. It seems that supposed conservatives never are when it comes to their own initiatives. These resolutions mean nothing and consume huge amounts of precious resources. A political grandstand is all they are. I am also so disappointed in Rick Olson. I've lost all respect for the man.


Let us once again remind ourselves that Starrett is also responsible for such baseless claims as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster was all planned by NASA so they could get more funding, and that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job planned by the Bush administration. When are the citizens of this county going to wake up???? Unfortunately we have just enabled her further with the election of Berschauer.


I would prefer a focus on the astonishly negative impact of utilizing lockdowns as a primary measure of virus control on our poor. The data is stunning as shown via the household 'pulse' census bureau survey (1st/2nd links). Food and housing insecurity are off the charts. Bloomberg did a recent story on housing (3rd link). Even the WHO is urging ending its use (4th link).

For instance, in Oregon, in the latest survey (wk 20), the reported likelihood of eviction or foreclosure was 52.4%. I shutter to think about what is transpiring in the poorer parts of the world. To add insult to injury, lockdowns are proving ineffective in restraining death rates (5th link).

For some reason, our public health officials have allowed themselves to become 'one variable wonders' seemingly unable to see beyond COVID.




I knew Mary Starrett was useless but Rick Olson? This is incredibly disappointing. He won't be getting my family's votes for anything ever again. Assuming we all survive long enough to see another election. We've already cut out every outdoor excursion except groceries, pharmacy (drive-thru), and work, and they've just made those things less safe, too. Thanks for trying, Casey. It's a shame science and reason count for so little right when we need them the most.


Oregon ranked #49 last week in deaths per capita among the 50 states and DC, with similar placings in other weeks. That makes me think the governor's mandates are a good thing, and trying to sneak around them will just result in more death.

Amity fan

What part of contagious does Starrett and Olson not get? Instead of constantly fighting with the state, our county leadership should be looking to assist businesses with resilience planning. There are numerous resources that are available to assist in this. Harvard school of business, the state of Oregon, and Oregon State University School of business all have numerous resources. You don't have to look too far to realize that there are businesses here in the county that have adjusted their model (with adequate advanced planning of course) and have been able to survive and even thrive in the current climate. Starrett and Olson need to stop the divisive fighting and start collaborating instead. I hope that neither Starrett nor Olson are touched in any way by Covid, because if they were they'd be singing a totally different song. Covid is contagious, its serious, and yes its deadly. If these people are really as experienced in business as they claim to be, then the concept of business resilience should be something they're familiar with and should be focusing on instead of bashing the state at every turn.


Curious- has the NR been able to verify that Starrett’s “doctor” is actually credentialed? I ask because I ran his name through the naturopath licensee look up for Oregon and California (where he currently works per Facebook) and this returned a grand total of zero results. Am I missing something, or did the county commissioners just invite a fake doctor to a public forum in order to spread false information?

Also, the good “doctor” apparently admitted to submitting false Covid information to the state and encouraged others to do the same. I didn’t view the meeting and don’t know the specifics, but I’m curious- was the “doctor” engaging in unlawful actions here? Have any state authorities weighed in?


I stand corrected on the licensee issue- the gentleman seems to use multiple last names. However, I’m still curious as to the legality of submitting false Covid information.


I stand corrected on the licensee issue- the gentleman seems to use multiple last names. However, I’m still curious as to the legality of submitting false Covid information.


I am truely disturbed by the fact the we seem to have an anit-vaxer (possibly two?) in a position of responsibility for the county.

Jeb Bladine

Dr. Ealy has challenged some content of this story. For additional clarification, see the Tuesday, Jan. 5 issue of the News-Register.

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