Beware ‘Flying Syringes’: Fringe Pick for Mosquito Board Stirs Controversy in Shasta

Local vector control appointments don’t usually make the news. But friends, these aren’t ordinary times – especially in the North State.

At a meeting last week, Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chair Patrick Jones blocked the county’s retired public health director Donnell Ewert, an epidemiologist, from taking an open seat on the Shasta Mosquito & Vector Control District’s governing board. Instead, supervisors appointed an alt-right conspiracy theorist who fears mosquitoes are being equipped with “flying syringes” to mass vaccinate populations against their will. 

The new board appointee, Jon Knight, is a member of the extremist Red, White and Blueprint movement founded by Carlos Zapata and reportedly attended the Stop the Steal rally on January 6th. Knight's only credentials seem to be that he sells pesticides as the owner of a local hydroponics store.

What really impressed the supervisors was Knight’s grasp of the issues.

“I know a lot about this stuff,” he told the board. “I know a lot about some of these Bill Gates programs. This is not a conspiracy, this is a fact. There’s Japanese scientists who have created flying syringes that will mass-vaccinate populations.”

He was evidently referring to ongoing research, partly funded by The Gates Foundation, on the use of mosquitos to deliver malaria vaccines in vulnerable parts of the world. Malaria still kills over 600,000 people in developing countries every year.

Knight continued:

“We live in an interesting sci-fi time. With my understanding of what’s going on with mosquitoes and my knowledge of pesticides, I think I could do a pretty darn good job.”

Board President Patrick Jones agreed.

“I would put my health in Jon Knight’s hands over Donnell Ewert’s any day of the week,” he declared.

And with that, the board’s lone moderate Mary Rickert once again resembled an incredulous Alice after climbing through the looking glass.

“It’s almost laughable that you would disregard the application from probably the most qualified person in this county and basically try to appoint someone who got his education about mosquitoes on the internet,” she told her colleagues.

“Do you know how that makes us look as a county? It makes us look like idiots.”

Knight’s appointment isn’t all that surprising for a board that allowed the Kraken to dictate its election system at a cost of $1.6 million. But it does underscore the extent to which fringe elements have gained a foothold in county government.

Vector control isn’t a trivial issue in the North State. At least three county residents have been hospitalized with West Nile Virus this year. Last month, Shasta mosquitoes tested positive for St. Louis encephalitis, a potentially neuroinvasive virus which hasn’t been detected in the county since 1972. And no – they weren't sent by Bill Gates.