Outgoing Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard says he is "dismayed" by Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam's statements about data related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pulliam is leading a movement of local businesses that wish to open one level below the COVID-19 categories outlined by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, starting Jan. 1. Last week, Pulliam told KATU News that Clackamas County is "misleading residents with numbers."
On Tuesday, Dec. 29, Pulliam, Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine and Molalla Mayor-elect Scott Keyser attended a rally in Estacada that advocated for local businesses that wish to reopen with a limited amount of indoor dining. Pulliam said he had not seen data that small businesses significantly contributed to the spread of COVID-19.
"Where's the evidence? Do you know where it is?" Pulliam asked the rally's attendees.
In a Dec. 31 news release, Bernard asked what Clackamas County's motives for tampering with data would be.
"We gain nothing and certainly have not wished to cause businesses to fail," he said. "Public health officials have the duty to truthfully share information and facts related to diseases in the communities they serve. It is unfair to target the ethics of an agency or the people who serve the community when the truth is something that is undesirable and painful."
Bernard included recent COVID-19 case counts for Sandy, Estacada and Clackamas County as a whole, which Pulliam refuted.
From Dec. 14-27, Clackamas County had 1,499 cases and a rate of 353 per 100,000 people. During the same time period, the 97055 ZIP code, which includes Sandy, had 105 cases and a rate of 523 per 100,000. The 97023 ZIP code, which includes the city of Estacada, had 58 cases and a rate of 508 per 100,000.
In a post on Facebook, Pulliam described these numbers as "misleading" because they were based on ZIP codes rather than the numbers within Sandy and Estacada city limits. He also claimed that the Clackamas County Health Department "was caught using 10 times upsampled numbers to manipulate the public through a hard-to-follow shell game of connect-the-dots math and inflated ZIP codes."
Pulliam also noted the numbers were pulled from a time period where restaurant dining rooms, bars and fitness centers were closed.
"Do Bernard's numbers meet some legal technicality? Perhaps — he worded it very carefully to escape the eye of a casual reader. But is it honest? No," Pulliam wrote. "It's a scare tactic to tell everyone that Sandy has 523 cases per 100,000. The real numbers are far too small to draw any scientific conclusion. But this isn't about science. This is about politicians misleading the public with cooked books and manipulated numbers to sound scarier than it is."
Bernard countered that business reopenings should be done safely.
"We understand that everyone is tired of this global pandemic. We understand that businesses that remain restricted or closed want to open and that they have been hit hard over the last several months. We share the desire to reopen. Yet reopening must be balanced with keeping our communities safe," he said. "We must work together to work towards reopening and recovery. Spreading unsubstantiated claims within the community only leads to further division."
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