HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The man chosen to be Ottawa County’s new top health officer previously said he does not support COVID-19 mitigation efforts like social distancing or wearing masks.
As part of a flurry of changes Tuesday, the new conservative slate of Ottawa County commissioners voted to replace its administrative health officer with Nathaniel Kelly. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it was looking into those actions.
Kelly is listed online as the safety manager for the Pluene Service Company in Grand Rapids. The business provides services in the heating ventilation and air conditioning industry. On Tuesday, commissioners said Kelly has degrees from Columbia Southern University, an online university based in Orange Beach, Alabama. The board said he has a master’s degree in occupational health and master’s in public health.
Last year, Kelly claimed social distancing was not supported by science and said people should not have been asked to stay home to slow the spread of the virus.
“No social distancing would be suggested since it has no basis in any proven science,” Kelly said during an event. “No mass testing for asymptomatic individuals; asymptomatic individuals do not transmit disease.”
“The majority of the population should have been out,” he went on to say. “There’s no other way to say it. You do not lock down a healthy population for the sake of the infirm. We all stay out. We all keep going.”
“As a public health professional, I would have led from the front. You would see me out — Nate Kelly — you would see me in hospitals, unmasked, talking to doctors, nurses, physicians,” he added.
During the height of the pandemic, West Michigan doctors and health officials from all levels of government, including the Ottawa County health department, repeatedly encouraged social distancing and the use of masks to slow the spread of the virus. Studies showed that asymptomatic people could transmit the virus. Data compiled by state epidemiologists showed there was a correlation between people’s travel and the spread of the virus, and many regions across the nation reliably saw spikes in cases after holiday gatherings.
Adeline Hambley will remain in the administrative health officer on an interim basis, the board’s resolution said, until Kelly’s hiring is confirmed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. An MDHHS spokesperson said proof of qualifications are required, including a resume and transcripts. It had not received that from the county as of Wednesday.
The Ottawa County Department of Public Health said in a statement to News 8 that no services at the department had been disrupted and that Hambley remained in her role as health officer.
News 8 reached out to Kelly seeking an interview but had not heard back as of close of business Wednesday.