- At least 49 public health officials have either resigned or been fired during the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported.
- Many attributed a politicized response to the pandemic as disputes over mask ordinances and that they were overworked as a reason for their resignation.
- Some resigned due to criticism that they did not handle the pandemic response correctly.
- Experts told the AP that this only means a less coherent response to the progress of the pandemic.
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At least 49 public health officials in 23 states have either resigned or been fired since April amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP̵
The latest official to resign is Sonia Angell, California’s current former director of public health, The Independent reported. Angell suspended after an error that caused the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange to return to 30,000 records and caused coronavirus cases to be underreported.
According to the AP, that system is used to make decisions about the reopening of companies and schools in the state.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot also resigned last week, the WHTC reported. Barbot went out because she felt that the health department’s expertise was not “used to the degree it could have been.”
Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press that these public health leaders are resigning due to a mix of factors including burnout and attacks on public health agents by high-ranking government officials including President Donald Trump.
“The overall tone of public health in the United States is so hostile that it has struck people to carry out these attacks,” Frieden said.
Some officials have even received death threats and Ohio State Health Director Dr. Amy Acton resigned after armed protesters showed up at her house.
While some officials went out for family-related reasons, to take other jobs, or because they were criticized for bad decisions, others said they went out because they were “overworked, underpaid, overvalued or pushed into a pressure cooker environment,” the AP reported .
“For me, much of the gap and stress and departures that happen right and left are a result of the lack of a real national response plan,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Northern California Health Representative, AP. “And we are all leaving ourselves at the local and state level to extract resources and improvise solutions … in a cracked health care system, in a public health system with under resources.”
Theresa Anselmo of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials told the AP that the removal of public health officials from their positions would only make the fight to contain the virus more difficult.
“It will certainly slow down the pandemic response and be less coordinated,” she told the AP. “Who will want to take on this career if you are confronted with the types of political issues that come up?”
The United States currently has over 5 million cases of coronavirus and registered more than 163,000 deaths.