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COVID-19: Health Officials Are Casualties of the Virus

When the spotlight shines brightly, some thrive and others shrink.

There has been plenty of tension between local health officials and the elected officials whom they serve. This is true at the federal, state and local levels of government. I've been a bit surprised about how prominent members of the Trump health team have hung in there over the last six months. 

Some prominent departures have included Oxiris Barbot, who resigned as New York City’s health commissioner to protest Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the crisis, while Cathy Slemp, commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, vacated her role at the behest of Gov. Jim Justice (R), who complained about the accuracy of the state’s numbers. Even California's health officer has resigned.

Besides the conflict in, I expect, strategy and communications, there have been plenty of local health officers who have had the public come after them personally. Threatening them and their families physically. Those types of pressures have caused local health officials to call it quits. Some thinking I suppose, "I didn't sign up for this!"

In all the pandemic planning I've done, the personal threat to health officers doing their duty never came up. 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.