Yates County Health Director resigns due to pushback against COVID-19 prevention plans

Coronavirus

PENN YAN, N.Y (WROC) — After only eight months on the job, Yates County Department of Health Director Annmarie Flanagan announced her letter of resignation due to what she claimed was continuous pushback from the public to not follow her guidelines.  

Annmarie Flanagan could not be reached by News 8 for comment on this decision, but in statements last week, Former Director Flanagan explained her efforts to fight off the pandemic and vaccinate Yates County was met with a “political firestorm, and continuous scrutiny” not being followed by the public or enforced enough by the board.  

In recent board meetings during public comment, many people of Yates County dismissed proposals and guidelines from Former Health Director Flanagan and her team, comparing mask mandates inside County buildings to communism and Nazis.  

“All this is towards Marxism,” one resident complained during public comment to the County Legislators. “They want to isolate you.”

Many in the County Legislature dismissed and condemned that comparison, but without going in-depth on Flanagan’s resignation defended their approach to working with her team to combat the coronavirus proving all necessary resources.  

“I honestly cannot think of any scrutiny,” Yates County Administrator Winona Flynn told us. “At least that came from the legislature on any of her requests that were made.” 

This change in leadership comes as Yates County sits towards the bottom of the Finger Lakes region in vaccines with only 51.8% of the county population receiving at least one dose. With the positivity transmission rate seven-day average reaching over 14% last week; levels the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) requires mask-wearing to be done when indoors. 

“If we can go out to the community and talk to the members and educate them,” Yates County Interim Health Director Sara Christensen said. “Or go to our community partners who are working closely with those vaccine-hesitant individuals and they can help us educate them.”  

This in-person practice would be key to getting one of the biggest vaccines hesitant groups of Yates County to understand its efficiency, like the Amish or Mennonites community who avoid TV and the internet, siting conflicting tips.  

“There’s a lot of stuff out there and you hear it one way and then another way, so you don’t know what to believe,” Nelson Weaver, a member of the Mennonite Community told us. “In the grand scheme of things, we put our trust in higher powers.” 

The Weaver family did tell us they and others would be open to hearing more from doctors if they came to them about what is in the vaccine. Sara Christensen adds the County can rest assured her team will continue to work on how to combat covid despite another change in leadership.  

Yates County also Offers Vaccine sites twice a week for anyone to learn and get their shot at the Lake Street Plaza Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Thursday 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. 

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