This pandemic is new to all of us. We haven’t experienced a health crisis of this magnitude in our lifetime.
We are fortunate that since day one of this pandemic public health officials across the state have been on the frontlines working diligently to protect us all from the threat of COVID-19. They acted decisively, early and consequently spared California the enormous horrific burden of illness and death that other states suffered. However, there is another threat public health officers did not see coming and are having to deal with – death threats. All because they are asking all of us to maintain our physical distance and wear a mask.
While we understand wearing a mask can be new to most of us, threatening the lives of officials working hard to save lives is simultaneously tragic and outrageous.
CNN recently reported that people have taken issue with guidance from health officials. The act of wearing a mask has become a “flashpoint” undermining the progress made in flattening the curve. Countless health officials across the country have been victims of heinous death threats for just doing their jobs. These actions have no place in our society, and we must engage in civil discussions in how we re-open our communities, state and nation.
These loyal public servants are risking their lives to ensure we are all safe. It is unfortunate that several senior health officials from seven California counties have resigned due to these threats that have gone unchecked, including the second-in-command at the state department of public health. Instead of focusing 100% of their efforts on fighting this pandemic, health officials are now worrying about their personal safety and the safety of their families.
Recently, The California Endowment conducted a survey of 800 voters across California that took a deep dive on the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. We are glad to report the majority of voters approve how public health officials are handling the pandemic, as more than two-thirds (68%) of those polled support efforts by public health departments.
The poll also finds more than half of the respondents believe public health should be at the forefront of keeping communities safe, and this suggests a stronger role for public health in re-imagining public safety.
Now, and more than ever, The California Endowment supports and stands with public health officials in helping to save lives and curb the spread of this virus at this critical time.