Public health officials unfairly targeted for decisions

All across the country, public health professionals are coming under attack for carrying out their duties to protect the public’s health.



June 26, 2020 - 2:43 PM

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wearing a Washington Nationals face mask to testify at a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Capitol Hill on June 23, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsc/Pool/Getty Images/TNS

Everyone wants to be the bearer of good news. But these days the pickings are slim if you happen to be a public health officer. 

Susan Lynn

Rebecca Johnson, director of the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department, had the unpleasant task this week of issuing written orders to area residents who have refused to self-quarantine after they tested positive for COVID-19.

Up to now, Johnson said residents in the department’s four-county area have cooperated with the advice to self-isolate for 14 days if diagnosed with the highly contagious virus.

But when informed of their diagnoses, several individuals in Bourbon County refused. 

Johnson is left with no choice but to now threaten misdemeanor charges against the individuals.

Let’s hope it ends there.

ALL ACROSS the country, public health professionals are coming under attack for carrying out their duties to protect the public’s health.

Ms. Johnson and fellow health directors follow the guidelines set forth by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for what have become sometimes highly contentious decisions such as closing certain businesses and requesting that we wear face masks and practice social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus.

It’s a thankless job these days that, incredibly, has become a dangerous one.

Reports of threats and violence against these public health officials are on the rise, including being heckled at public meetings, people calling for their resignations, and worse. 

In Rio Grande County, Colorado, the entire staff of its public health department was threatened on Facebook with the reference, “bodies swinging from trees.” And instead of backing up Director Emily Brown’s decision to temporarily shutter certain operations, its county commissioners fired her.

In Ohio, Health Director Amy Acton had armed protestors come to her home, not once, but several times.

In California, Orange County’s health director, Dr. Nichole Quick, received several threats in response to her order that citizens wear face masks.  

“It’s a very stressful position,” she told the Associated Press. “There have been multiple staff that have received threats and each one of those is reviewed by law enforcement. We take them very seriously.”

Quick is the seventh senior health official to resign in California since the pandemic began. Ohio’s Acton has also stepped down.

Who could blame them?

ALL THIS makes me wonder how did orders meant to protect public health come to be seen as a restriction of our rights or liberties? And what has happened to working for the better good?

In my opinion, Ms. Johnson and her crews deserve our praise, not scorn. Go to to learn more about their wonderful services. A thank you note also seems appropriate.

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