Health Care

Dozens of state, local health leaders fired or resigned amid pandemic: report

Dozens of state and local public health leaders have been fired or resigned during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis from the Associated Press and the Kaiser Health News Service reported on Monday

Multiple health experts left office after being fiercely criticized, threatened with violence and in some cases simply experiencing burnout after the whirlwind past few months, the AP reported.

The analysis found that across 23 states, at least 49 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April, when the U.S. outbreak kicked into high gear, including more than 20 since June. 

One of the most recent health leaders to leave office was California’s public health director Sonia Angell, who quit abruptly Sunday afternoon after data glitches delayed the processing of up to 300,000 coronavirus-related records. The errors possibly led officials to significantly undercount the number of confirmed cases in the state as discussions over reopening schools and businesses occurred. 

Many of the departures are associated with the ongoing debates over masks and social distancing guidelines, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, the CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Several health officials cited family reasons and new job offers at other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as reasons for leaving.

Others, however, have pointed to stressful work environments where they are overworked, underpaid and sometimes harassed by the public.

Freeman said the departures are likely to be disruptive to fighting the pandemic.

“We’re moving at breakneck speed here to stop a pandemic, and you can’t afford to hit the pause button and say, ‘We’re going to change the leadership around here and we’ll get back to you after we hire somebody,’” she said.

New York City’s health commissioner resigned last week, alleging that Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) did not prioritize medical expert opinions.

Ohio’s state health director Amy Acton stepped down last month after GOP lawmakers aimed to take away her power and armed demonstrators arrived at her house. 

West Virginia’s then-Public Health Commissioner Cathy Slemp was forced to resign in June after Gov. Jim Justice (R) said there were inconsistencies in state data.

The U.S. has confirmed more than 5 million cases of coronavirus and at least 163,331 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, more than any other country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tags Bill de Blasio Coronavirus COVID-19 Fired kaiser health news Pandemic Public health public health officials Resign resignations The Associated Press

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