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Home / Health / California health officials face protest and even death threats due to coronavirus orders

California health officials face protest and even death threats due to coronavirus orders

A colleague texted Dr. Erica Pan, a health official in Alameda County, with a photo of the yard sign on it. It shows a picture of her with “Houses and Businesses Destroyed by the Economy” and “#A–holeMD”.

Dr. Pan said: “I’m confronting each other in various ways,” Dr. Pan was threatened on social media, coming to her house, and insulted on the website that rated the doctor. “These things scattered the important public health work I did to protect the community; that was my job. What I was upset about was whether it was trying to invade my personal and family life. I really don’t want my family to be in trouble .”

She is not alone. In California and throughout the United States, public health officials have become the target of protests, intimidation, and even death threats. These people are dissatisfied with slowing down the spread of coronavirus by sheltering in place, closing businesses, and wearing masks.

Health officials are doctors appointed by the elected supervisory board, usually low-key civil servants. However, in the special circumstances of the pandemic, according to the law, they are the ultimate authority of countless orders that have changed the daily lives of millions of people.

Public opinion polls show that most Californians support pandemic prevention measures, but a few harass health officials.

In the Bay Area, protesters mobilized health officials in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties and held slogans like “God hates liar”. The threat to Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer, is so severe that she now has security protection. Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said in a podcast that the security measures in his office and home have been strengthened.

Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the California Association of Health Officials, said: “Health officials and local health directors work 80 hours a week to fight the virus.” “At the same time, they have been subjected to some real vicious attacks, Threatened by the public.”

Like many public health officials, Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County Public Health Officer, has been the object of harassment that people are dissatisfied with the instructions to contain the pandemic.

Nationwide, more than 20 public health officials have resigned in recent weeks, although some plan to retire. Since the beginning of the pandemic, eight local health officials and two state officials have resigned in California.

Dr. Pan became the ninth resignation on Tuesday, saying that Dr. Pan will leave Alameda County to become the state epidemiologist and deputy director of the Center for Infectious Diseases. She said the change had nothing to do with harassment. She said: “If anything, it will be similar, because I will implement the guidelines statewide (to fight the coronavirus), so it will become the face of the public and may get more attention. “

Governor Gavin Newsom talked about this sign at a press conference on Wednesday.

He said: “Some health executives have been attacked, threatened with death, their manner and morale are low.” “I just want to apologize to all these health leaders… because all they have to do is use data, use science to keep you healthy and Security. This is not a political issue. This is not an ideological issue.”

However, many protesters saw this pandemic from a political and ideological point of view.

Richard Carpiano, a professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, said: “People who are ideologically opposed to vaccines are expanding to this related issue, and found that they are related to COVID denialists and COVID conspiracy theories. , The common allies of right-wing marginal groups that are concerned about the government’s excessive expansion.” Riverside studied the anti-vaccination campaign, which led to the organization of protests on pandemic measures. “They think this is the government’s transcendence.”

Some people behind the protests against health officials said they felt justified for this reason and pointed out examples such as contact tracking, which is an initiative for newly infected people to contact other people who may be exposed to the virus .

“Aren’t they saying that they are talking about contact tracking troops who will come to our house?” said Stefanie Fetzer, a housewife in Orange County and co-founder of the Angel of Liberty Foundation, which is organizing Demonstrations about coronavirus measures. “I feel threatened because of the coronavirus, they want to put me in the database and track my family’s movements. For me, that’s very non-American.”

Public health officials said that contact tracking is voluntary, and people can refuse to provide information without any consequences, noting that contact tracking is usually done by phone.

DeBurgh said: “Contact tracking is a vital public health protection.” “Opposing contact tracking is like telling the fire department that no matter how risky your neighbors are, you have the right to let your house burn down.”

Fetzer also said that the mask requirements are heavy. She said that her two children had sensory processing problems and panic disorder, which would be exacerbated by wearing masks.

Fetzer defended the Angel of Liberty protest. She said: “We took it to the county public health official’s home, where the chalk drawings and children were very peaceful.” “Calling intimidation is almost a tactic for us.”

Facebook deleted three protest videos released by the organization, including protesters outside the residence of health personnel, including protest videos in Contra Costa County.

On Thursday, June 25, 2020, Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County Public Health Officer's office in Oakland, California. Like many other public health officials, Dr. Pan is also a target of harassment. Instructions to curb a pandemic, such as wearing masks.

Facebook said in a statement: “Although we believe in protecting people’s ability to express opinions and organize peaceful protests on our platform, we have determined that these videos violate our policies, so we deleted them.” The company added The problem is that the content leaks personally identifiable information.

A video still on the organization’s Facebook live broadcast showed demonstrators staying on public roads and interacting peacefully with the police, but their comments included things like “We will work tirelessly, we will not stop, we will be in every house. In Santa Clara, a protester said that the presence of security personnel showed that “hypocrisy is only offensive” and “really disgusting”.

The group wrote on its Facebook page: “Hey, public health officials, you are on our crosshairs.” One member said in the video: “We must make them feel very uncomfortable.” Speaking of public health Officials, as well as city council members and county supervisors, he said.

Some experts say the hostility towards health officials can be traced back to the White House.

San Francisco health official Dr. Tomás Aragón said: “It is very unfortunate that President Trump has set a tone that does not support science and makes it possible to attack others.”

San Francisco Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax agreed. He said: “The response at the highest point on land is (ignoring) data, science and facts.” “This helps us see the local dynamics across the country.”

In the Bay Area, Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed some inflammatory comments to health officials.

Enraged by the order to close its Fremont manufacturing plant, Musk tweeted that Dr. Pan was “ignorant and ignorant” and said that her actions “oppose the Governor, the President, and our constitutional freedom!” This encouraged His fan base further attacked social media. Dr. Pan is a pediatric infectious disease expert with more than 20 years of medical experience.

DeBurgh said that all county health officials in California have not been carefully designed to “separate themselves from politics.” “You want them to become doctors, not politicians running for office.”

Unlike many of their colleagues, Aragon and Colfax have not been targeted. Although they may receive emails from dissatisfied people, they have not crossed the line due to abuse.

Colfax said: “Fortunately, in San Francisco, the public has given great support to the proposed efforts.” However, “we are in an era where public health officials are being harassed and attacked for doing the right public health, This fact is cause for serious concern and it reflects the very challenging dynamics we are currently working on.”

Stephen Shortell, the honorary dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, is worried that the attack will prevent doctors from playing these key roles and may change the nature of work.

Shorter said: “Now, the leadership role has been expanded, and the need for emotional adaptability and communication ability is more and more concerned by the public.”

The devastating economic impact of the shutdown caused widespread anger and people had to look for scapegoats.

Shortel said: “This is what causes so many people to collapse or get rid of pressure and slams the most obvious goal,” “Some members of the public see them as people who restrict their freedom to reopen business or do what they want to do. .”

Dr. Pan said that in Alameda County, she understands and sympathizes with the difficulty of coping with the epidemic.

She said: “I support people to protest freely (for example) to my office or board meeting.” “There are many respectful letters, emails and advocacy for elected officials.”

Her message to the protesters was: “The entire Alamanda County is my patience. I am doing my best to make decisions to deal with various problems (priorities). We are willing to accept continuous input and Feedback, but hope to proceed in a constructive way.”

Carolyn Said is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid

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