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Dr. Bob Lutz to join state Department of Health to help with COVID-19 response

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 11, 2020

Dr. Bob Lutz is not done with public health yet.

A month after the Spokane Regional Health District Board’s controversial decision to fire him as county health officer, he has accepted a new position at the Washington Department of Health.

Lutz will be joining the department’s COVID response team, a spokeswoman told The Spokesman-Review. He accepted the role earlier this week.

“Dr. Lutz’s experience as a local health officer and his clinical expertise will bring great value to our state’s response efforts,” a statement from DOH says.

No further details were available about Lutz’s new role from the department on Thursday.

Lutz’s hiring coincides with additional changes at the state health agency, including the departure of two of the department’s top leaders just as COVID-19 numbers surge to record levels, hospitals are filling and promising vaccines are expected.

Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman is leaving his role for a faculty position at the University of North Carolina, which he had committed to before the pandemic struck.

Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Dr. Umair Shah as the new health secretary, Shah, who will begin in his new role on Dec. 21, led Harris County Public Health in Texas for seven years.

Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, also announced her resignation from the agency by the year’s end. The search for Lofy’s replacement started in November. Lofy is leaving the department for personal reasons, to focus on her family and health, she said at the time.

Lutz still serves as the Asotin County Public Health Officer and sits on the State Board of Health.

In early November, the Spokane Regional Health District Board of Health fired Lutz after Administrator Amelia Clark had locked him out of the district and effectively ousted him a week prior.

Community members rallied around Lutz, holding protests, flooding board members with public comments and asking that Clark and the board reconsider.

The State Board of Health, absent Lutz, has authorized an investigation into whether Clark broke the law in firing Lutz before the board took a vote.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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