Health Officials Quitting or Getting Fired Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Over dozens of state and local public health officials have quit or have been fired amid the coronavirus outbreak.

What We Know:

  • The latest departure happened on Sunday, when Dr. Sonia Angell, California’s public health director, left following a technical problem that created a hold up in the reporting of hundreds of thousands of virus test results, information that is managed in making decisions about the reopening of businesses and schools.
  • Last week, the health commissioner of New York City was replaced after months of conflict with the Police Department and City Hall.
  • In a review performed by Kaiser Health News Service and The Associated Press, it was found that at least 49 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired, or been fired since April across the 23 states. This list has increased by more than 20 people since the AP and KHN started keeping track in June.
  • Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, said the numbers are outstanding. He said they demonstrate burnout and attacks on public health experts and institutions from the highest levels of government, including President Donald Trump. The latter has sidelined the CDC during the pandemic.
  • Former West Virginia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cathy Slemp, who was forced to resign by Republican Gov. Jim Justice in June, said that the past few months have been “frustrating and tiring and disheartening” for public health officials.
  • Few health officials said they were stepping down for family reasons, and some left for jobs at other agencies, such as the CDC. For example, Angell was let go because of what superior said was poor leadership or failure to do their job.
  • Others have criticized that they were underpaid, overworked, unappreciated, or shoved into a pressure-cooker environment.
  • From Dr. Anthony Fauci down to officials in small communities, public health leaders have reported death threats and intimidation. Others have seen their home addresses published or have been the center of sexist attacks on social media.

Following talks for months of public speculation about Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot’s future at her job, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Dr. Dave A. Chokshi was replacing her. He is an official and primary care physician in the city’s public hospital system.