Pandemic pressure is pushing health officials to resign

At least 181 state and local public health leaders nationwide have resigned, retired or been fired since April 1, many because of pandemic-related backlash from citizens and politicians, an investigation by The Associated Press and Kaiser Health News has found.

During the pandemic, health officials have faced backlash over COVID-19 polices such as mask orders. They also have at times been personally attacked, and lawmakers in Missouri, Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia and at least 20 other states have sought to limit public health abilities via legislation, according to The Associated Press and Kaiser Health News.

"I've never seen or studied a pandemic that has been as politicized, as vitriolic and as challenged as this one, and I've studied a lot of epidemics," Howard Markel, MD, PhD, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, told the news organizations. "All of that has been very demoralizing for the men and women who don't make a great deal of money, don't get a lot of fame, but work 24/7."

For their investigation, the news organizations reached out to state public health workers and experts and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. They also analyzed public records and news reports and did hundreds of interviews.

The investigation found that the resignations, retirements and terminations have occurred in 38 states, and many state and local officials who left did so because of political blowback or COVID-19 pressure. Some left because of health concerns or to take new positions, and dozens retired.

Overall, 40 million Americans live in a community that has lost its local public health department leader during the public health crisis, according to the investigation.

Read more about the investigation here


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