As the nation awaits a vaccine to end the pandemic, local health departments say they lack the staff, money, tools ― and a unified plan ― to distribute, administer and track millions of vaccines, most of which will require two doses. Dozens of doctors, nurses and health officials interviewed by KHN and The Associated Press expressed their concern and frustration over federal shortcomings.
State officials said they urgently needed millions more masks and gowns, internal emails show. At least 80 Georgia health workers have died from COVID-19, including after the state reopened its economy.
The disease intervention specialist at the Prince George’s County Health Department was among at least 20 department employees infected by the coronavirus, union officials say. The outbreak underscores the stark dangers facing the nation’s front-line public health army.
Time and again over the past two decades, peace officers have targeted demonstrators with munitions designed only to stun and stop. Protests this year in reaction to George Floyd’s death in police custody have reignited a controversy surrounding their use.
The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources necessary to confront the worst health crisis in a century. An investigation by The Associated Press and KHN has found that since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and for local health departments by 18%. At least 38,000 public health jobs have disappeared, leaving a skeletal workforce for what was once viewed as one of the world’s top public health systems. That has left the nation unprepared to deal with a virus that has sickened at least 2.6 million people and killed more than 126,000.
To assess the state of the public health system in the United States, KHN and The Associated Press analyzed data on government spending and staffing at national, state and local levels. Here’s what data we used and how we did it.
KHN and The Associated Press sought to understand how decades of cuts to public health departments by federal, state and local governments has affected the system meant to protect the nation’s health. Here are six key takeaways from the KHN-AP investigation.
As health workers were dying of COVID-19, federal work-safety officials filed just one citation against an employer and rapidly closed complaints about protective gear.
Around the country, police responded to protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death by shooting “less lethal” projectiles, which can seriously hurt and kill. In a joint investigation, KHN and USA TODAY found some officers appear to have violated their department’s own rules when they fired.
Public health officials are confronting growing pressure — and threats — across the country as the backlash to the coronavirus response continues. At least 27 state and local health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 13 states.