At least 26 states have passed laws to permanently limit public health powers, a KHN investigation has found, weakening the country’s ability to fight not only the current resurgence of the pandemic but other health crises to come.
At least 181 public health leaders in 38 states have resigned, retired or been fired amid the turmoil of the pandemic. The departures come as backlash against public health is rising with threats to officials’ personal safety and legislative and legal efforts to strip their governmental public health powers.
Prince George’s County in Maryland is taking action after a coronavirus outbreak left veteran public health worker Chantee Mack dead and several colleagues with lasting medical problems. But some staffers say more still needs to be done to keep public health workers on the front lines of the COVID fight safe.
Catalyzed by the paltry response to the pandemic and the inequities it is causing, people are flocking to graduate programs in public health to become the next front-line workers.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded a confidential address program to public health officials in the wake of ongoing threats made against them tied to pandemic safety precautions such as masks and stay-at-home orders.
KHN Midwest editor and correspondent Laura Ungar appeared on Spectrum News and Fox 35 Orlando to discuss cuts to Florida’s public health system that have hampered its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
As the nation hollowed out its public health infrastructure for decades, staffing and funding fell faster and further in Florida. Then the coronavirus ran roughshod, infecting more than half a million people and killing thousands.
A review by KHN and the Associated Press finds at least 49 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 23 states. One of the latest departures came Sunday, when California’s public health director was ousted.
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.