Public health and health officials around the country are giving notice and leaving their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. As partisan anger continues to divide the country as over 170,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, public servants are leaving.
In some cases, officials resign after clashing with government officials and elected leaders. New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot resigned in early August after arguing with Mayor Bill de Blasio. In other states, officials are fired for reporting or data issues. Officials in Texas, Indiana, and Montana quit over the summer when politicians in their states overrode their recommendations for stopping public events and requiring masks. In Ohio, Amy Acton had to quit her job as the governor’s chief health adviser after receiving threats and dealing with armed protestors swarming her home.
Kaiser Health and News and the Associated Press found that at least 50 state and local health officials have resigned, retired or been fired since April.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told The Hill in an interview, “To see this kind of really widespread resignations from critical roles at a time of great importance for our country ought to be a source for everyone to be concerned. I am very troubled to see that kind of turnover.”
Collins believes many elected leaders are caught between public health recommendations and the economy. The misconception that there is a choice between the two has affected officials’ reach and power. “The idea that you have to either pick to support the economy or pick public health measures is so upside down. The public health measures are going to help us get our economy going again,” he said. “They are a pathway towards getting our schools started up again. And yet somehow in many of these situations, these are pitted against each other in a way that causes a great deal of anger and resentment and political furor to kick in.”
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