July 01, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health
The California Medical Association (CMA) is sponsoring a bill authored by state Senator Richard Pan, M.D., that will protect California’s public health officers. Under current law, the home addresses of members of the legislature, city councils, board of supervisors and other officials are prohibited from appearing in Department of Motor Vehicle records that can be accessed by the public. Dr. Pan’s bill (SB 483) would extend that prohibition to the disclosure of the home addresses of public 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. Extremists who oppose almost every measure to halt the coronavirus pandemic, including stay-at-home orders, face coverings, contact tracing and vaccination have sought to intimidate health officials to change the orders.
“We cannot continue to subject public health officers to the unfair, uninformed, personal attacks we have seen across the state in recent months,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “The nearly 50,000 members of the California Medical Association want to thank Dr. Pan for stepping up to protect the people who are working to protect public health. This bill is an important step to support our local health officials, who are providing the courage and leadership California needs to continue to navigate our current health crisis.”
Public health officers are trained medical professionals with the expertise to protect the public from preventable injury and death. During outbreaks, they have the authority to act to halt an outbreak from spreading.
At an Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, a fringe extremist with ties to anti-vaccine groups threatened the health officer of Orange County and announced her home address, inciting protesters to visit her house. The health officer resigned after that incident and, online, extremists announced they would be targeting other health officers. Since then, they protested at the home of the Contra Costa County Public Health Officer and other health officials throughout the state have continued to receive threats, including the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health who released a statement about threats she has received during the COVID-19 health emergency.
“Public safety demands that public health officials must make recommendations based on science and free from intimidation,” said Dr. Pan. “Public health officials shouldn’t have to choose between their own safety and livelihood and the public’s health. SB 483 will protect our health officers so they can focus on their job and protect the public.”