SPOKANE, Wash. — As the controversy surrounding the firing of Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz lingers and COVID-19 cases continue to spike, the Spokane Regional Health District canceled its next two weekly coronavirus briefings.
According to SRHD Spokesperson Kelli Hawkins, the briefing scheduled for Wednesday was canceled. She said the one set for Nov. 11 was canceled in observation of Veterans Day. The next scheduled briefing is on Nov. 18 at 10 a.m.
This comes as the health district reported five new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday and the county’s two-week case rate is at 270 per 100,000 residents. Over the weekend, the county surpassed 10,000 cases and 200 deaths since the pandemic started.
Spokane Regional Health District Administrator Amelia Clark reportedly met with Lutz and asked him to resign from his position on Thursday, Oct. 29, citing "performance issues."
Lutz led Spokane County's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as Spokane Regional Health Officer. He said in a statement on Monday that he was officially fired from his position last week.
The health district initially said the health board had given Clark its approval to ask for Lutz to step down, but later clarified that the health board hadn't voted on whether to terminate Lutz or made any decisions related to his employment.
In a statement released on Monday, Lutz outlined what he called "inaccurate and misleading information" provided by SRHD regarding his employment status.
A special meeting of the health board is set for 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5. It will include remarks from Administrative Officer Amelia Clark and Lutz. The board will then question the administrator and/or health officer before a potential executive session.
Health district leaders said they are in the process of recruiting another health officer, with help from Washington state, but they did not clarify a timeline for filling the vacant position. Clark said she will begin the recruitment process "as soon as possible."
If Dr. Lutz is terminated, the health board will vote on Medical Director for SRHD’s Treatment Services Division Dr. Mary Begum as interim Health Officer.