June 09, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health
The California Medical Association (CMA) is deeply disturbed and saddened by unfair attacks on California’s county and city health officers. Over the past three months, public health officials in cities and counties across California have been subject to unfair and uninformed attacks and have become political targets amid the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, Orange County Public Health Office Nichole Quick, M.D., resigned on Monday night after being subject to threats and protests at her home related to a countywide mask order.
“We are deeply concerned that politics may be trumping public interest in some of these cases, and that the public’s health may be compromised as a result,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “The COVID-19 crisis is not over. We must continue to have a coordinated state and local response that is rooted in science and civility. We must do all we can to support our local health officials who are providing the courage and leadership California needs to continue to navigate this health crisis.”
California’s response to COVID-19 and our success in flattening the curve has been driven by the leadership of our local county health officers. Seven local public health leaders have or announced their intentions to leave their positions. All of them have served with distinction and in the interest of public health.
“We as physicians understand people are tired and frustrated after months of personal sacrifices we all have made to keep each other safe. We are too,” said Orange County Medical Association President Diana E. Ramos, M.D., MPH. “But our primary focus is on ensuring the proper care and safety of all our patients in light of COVID-19. This public health crisis is not over. As we begin to re-open our county, the science is clear: wearing a face covering can help slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
Dr. Quick, and other public servants like her, should be praised for their leadership in doing what is right. Her resignation, and the resignations of several other county health officers throughout California in recent weeks because of similar circumstances of personal threats, creates a dangerous precedent that should concern all of us. We must continue to protect public health based on science, and not allow bullying to drive the health recommendations that can keep us safe and healthy.