PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, USA (AP) – Vilified, threatened with violent retaliation and in some cases suffering from exhaustion, dozens of state and local public health officials across the United States have resigned or been fired during the coronavirus pandemic. – a testament to how politically sensitive masks, lockdowns and infection data have become.
One of the most recent exits occurred on Sunday, when California’s director of public health, Dr. Sonia Angell, resigned without giving an explanation after a technical problem that caused a delay in reporting the results of tests to detect the virus. , information that is used in making decisions about the reopening of businesses and schools.
Last week, the New York City health commissioner was replaced after months of friction with the Police Department and City Hall.
A review by Kaiser Health News (KHN) and The Associated Press found that at least 49 state and local public health officials have resigned, retired or been fired since April in 23 states. The list has grown by more than 20 people since the AP and KHN began keeping records in June.
The departure of those personnel is making an already bad situation worse, just when America needs good public health leadership, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of City and County Health Officials.
“We are moving at breakneck speed to curb a pandemic, and you can’t afford to hit the pause button and say, ‘We’re going to change leadership around here and we’ll come back to you after we hire someone,'” he said. Freeman.
As of Monday, the United States had more than 5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, with about 163,000 deaths – the highest numbers in the world – according to the Johns Hopkins University count.
Many of the layoffs and resignations have to do with conflicts over orders on the use of masks or closures due to social distancing measures, Freeman said. Many politicians and ordinary Americans have argued that such measures are unnecessary, contrary to scientific evidence and the recommendations of medical experts.
“It is not a division for health issues; it’s a political divide, ”Freeman said.
Some health officials said they were leaving the position for family reasons, while others left the position to go to other agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some were fired for what their superiors said was poor leadership or because they were not doing their jobs.
Others have complained that they were overworked, poorly paid, undervalued, or had been suddenly placed in a high-pressure environment.
Public health officials, from Dr. Anthony Fauci – the nation’s infectious disease expert – to small community officials, have reported death threats and intimidation.