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Here are key duties Dr. Bob Lutz performed as Spokane County Health Officer

Dr. Bob Lutz is no longer the health officer and the health district won't clarify who is responsible for his biggest tasks.

SPOKANE, Wash — On the day news broke that Dr. Bob Lutz is out as Spokane's local health officer, Spokane Regional Health District Administrative Officer Amelia Clark has not yet provided clarity on how that vacancy will be filled.

With no interim health officer, it's unknown who will be performing any of the position's vital duties. 

Washington state law establishes the position of health officer, and their responsibilities are explicitly detailed in the state code.

The first and arguably biggest one is that the health officer has the authority to enforce all state and local health laws and rules. For instance, if someone violates a stay home order, it’s the health officer who decides whether and how to penalize them.

Spokane County saw that in action in July, when a man with COVID-19 repeatedly refused to quarantine, Lutz ordered he be taken to jail.

If such a person were to exist now, it’s unclear if anyone in Spokane would even have the authority to make that call.

RELATED: Former Spokane health officer Dr. Bob Lutz asked to resign due to 'personnel issues'

Secondly, the health officer also attends all conferences called by the state Secretary of Health, currently John Wiesman. It's unknown who will be representing Spokane in such meetings anymore.

Another critical responsibility is keeping the public informed about disease and how to prevent its spread. Lutz has been doing that in regular press conferences.

Now, there's no indication of who, if anyone, will communicate important updates or answer key health questions.

The health officer is also expected to "control and prevent the spread of any dangerous, contagious or infectious diseases," according to the law. Obviously, that can mean a lot of things, but this year, Lutz has already taken significant actions using that authority, like when he shut down playgrounds back in March.

Since then, most restrictions have come from the governor’s office, not the health district. But the health officer is still the point man on some big decisions. Perhaps most notably, they play a big role in choosing when schools can open.

While the actual decision is up to the districts, nearly all of them were making their calls based on Lutz’s recommendations. Furthermore, the health officer does have the power to prohibit in-person learning if they deem it poses an imminent public health threat.

Now, there’s nobody to make those recommendations or emergency decisions.

Lutz also signs off on various orders for testing and contact tracing, as well as letters providing important updates. And, naturally, he serves as the medical expert and figurehead of the health district, providing leadership that will now be missing.

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