Some public health officials are resigning amid threats during the Covid-19 pandemic
During a live public briefing on Facebook last month, “someone very casually suggested” the Los Angeles County’s public health director should be shot, the director said.
“I didn’t immediately see the message, but my husband did, my children did, and so did my colleagues,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Monday in a statement.
It’s just one of the many threats of violence public health workers are facing across the nation “on a regular basis” as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, Ferrer said.
Whether it’s advising people to avoid large groups or encouraging people to wear face coverings in public, health officials — both at the local and federal level — have spent the last few months updating Americans on how to remain safe during the pandemic and avoid spreading the virus.
There are more than 2.3 million reported Covid-19 cases throughout the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There have been at least 120,393 virus-related deaths.
Yet across the US, many people have taken issue with guidance from health officials — as the act of wearing a mask to protect others during a pandemic has become a political and cultural flashpoint.
The backlash toward health officials has taken its toll: At least 24 public health officials across the country have either resigned, retired or been fired from the positions during the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) said Monday.
“What has typically been just pure public health advice coming from a trusted source in the community, the local health department, is being politicized and made to seem like the public health advice is something that is restricting people’s rights, their freedoms to move about,” Lori Freeman, CEO of NACCHO, told CNN.
Some health officials now have personal security
NACCHO said last week that threats toward public officials are happening “across the country, in red states and blue states, large metropolitan areas and rural communities.”
“Public health department officials and staff have been physically threatened and politically scapegoated,” Theresa Spinner, NACCHO communications director, said in a statement.
As a result, many have obtained personal security as protection.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most public medical face of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, has had personal security from law enforcement, including at his home, for a few months now after receiving threats.