for links to POSTS 1-178 in chronological order, highlight and click on
“Dr. Michelle Fiscus was caught up in a controversy after she passed along legal guidance to health providers saying teenagers do not need parents’ consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot — a position established by decades of state law.
“Specifically, it was MY job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus said in a scathing statement about her firing. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”
Tennessee’s leaders have betrayed the public trust, Fiscus says, accusing them of putting their own political gains ahead of the people’s well-being. She defended her colleagues in the health sector who have been fighting the pandemic — and she notably took umbrage that a lawmaker had called the state health department’s actions “reprehensible.”
Fiscus said that “the ‘leaders’ of this state who have put their heads in the sand and denied the existence of COVID-19 or who thought they knew better than the scientists who have spent their lives working to prevent disease… they are what is ‘reprehensible.’ I am ashamed of them. I am afraid for my state.”
Because of the pushback from lawmakers, Fiscus says, Tennessee is halting all of its vaccination outreach efforts for teens and children – not only for COVID-19 but also for measles and other illnesses…
It all started in the spring, when Fiscus says several health care providers asked her office for clarity about how to handle the then-looming authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for minors as young as 12. As she prepared a memo on the subject, she turned to the Tennessee Department of Health’s general counsel, which replied with a doctrine based on a 1987 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling.
The doctrine, which says teens from ages 14-17 don’t need to get their parents’ or guardians’ consent before getting the vaccine, was posted online “and is blessed by the Governor’s office on the subject,” the legal office said, according to Fiscus. The office reportedly added, “This is forward facing so feel free to distribute to anyone.”
But when Fiscus sent a memo sharing that guidance, critics seized on the message and called it a governmental overreach, threatening to disband the state Department of Health, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. At a hearing in Tennessee’s legislature, a Republican legislator said the health department’s ad campaign encouraging teens to get vaccinated amounted to an attempt “to target children.”…
“I was told that I should have been more ‘politically aware’ and that I ‘poked the bear’ when I sent a memo to medical providers clarifying a 34-year-old Tennessee Supreme Court ruling,” Fiscus said in her statement.
“I am not a political operative, I am a physician who was, until today, charged with protecting the people of Tennessee, including its children, against preventable diseases like COVID-19.” (A)
“Exhausted, frustrated, facing personal threats and political pressure, public health officials nationwide are departing their posts at a rate never seen before, and in the middle of a pandemic.
More than 180 state and local public health leaders — high level health department staffers in at least 38 states — have resigned, retired or been fired since April 1, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News and The Associated Press. It is the largest exodus of public health officials in American history, experts say.
One in eight Americans — roughly 40 million people — lives in a community that has lost its local public health department leader during the coronavirus pandemic, the analysis found.
“This has been a major, unprecedented loss in public health leadership across the nation,” Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News.
While prepared to handle the relentless strain that comes with managing the COVID-19 crisis, officials told ABC they had not anticipated the cross purposes of scientific response and political backlash — in both red and blue states — that hamstrung the offices in which they’d been tasked to serve — and where some said they found little support from their leadership.
“This past year, you saw public health as a science and as a field being berated and belittled,” Besser said. We saw it being lifted up as the enemy of economic recovery — rather than the path to sustained economic recovery.”
The contentious atmosphere between political and public health risks eroding trust and morale in the system, experts say; that only gets exacerbated as science becomes the target of public ire — and physical threats…
In California, Dr. Aimee Sisson is among several health officers throughout the state who have resigned in the wake of friction with elected officials, departing from her role as Placer County public health director after a unanimous vote by the board of supervisors in September to end the local COVID-19 health emergency declaration, in defiance of her guidance…
“It was the last straw,” Sisson told ABC News. “Ultimately, it came down to feeling like I wasn’t able to do the job that I was hired to do.””
“Where I get concerned is when public health is not one of the key voices — or doesn’t get a set of keys at all to what’s driving our response, and they’re left in the backseat,” Sisson said.
“I hope what comes out of all this is increased understanding and investment in what public health does. We always say — when we’re doing our job well, nobody knows that we exist — because we’re preventing outbreaks before they happen,” Sisson said. “This is bigger than the pandemic.” (B)
“Nearly a quarter of public health workers report feeling bullied, harassed or threatened due to their work as the pandemic was unfolding, with 1 in 8 saying they had received job-related threats. That’s according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency found that almost three-quarters of more than 26,000 health care workers surveyed during a three-week period in late March and early April of 2020 felt overwhelmed by work. More than half reported symptoms of mental health conditions, including depression among nearly a third.
The troubling symptoms were more acute among workers who spent most of their time with COVID-19 patients. Of those who spent three-quarters of their work life responding to pandemic-related cases, nearly half reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder…
Stressful events like the coronavirus pandemic impair health care workers when they’re needed most, the CDC researchers stated.
“Increases in adverse mental health symptoms among workers have been linked to increased absenteeism, high turnover, lower productivity and lower morale, which could influence the effectiveness of public health organizations during emergencies,” they wrote.
The findings echo the experiences of public health officers, dozens of whom have resigned or been fired since the start of the pandemic, noted researchers in an article published last year by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Today’s increasingly routine harassment and threats against public officials have much in common with growing resistance to childhood vaccination,” they stated. “The environment deteriorates further when elected leaders attack their own public health officials..” (C)
“Riverside County, California, was one of the first counties in the country to face Covid-19, when repatriated US citizens were quarantined at March Air Reserve Base on January 29, 2020. Seeing how quickly things moved in China, then Riverside County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser knew he had to act fast.
“From what we saw was going on in China at the time, it potentially, it could be very big,” he said.
On April 4, 2020, Kaiser took actions more protective than the state’s health orders, including prohibiting gatherings of people from different households in his county, as well as an order for people to mask in public.
He knew none of this would be easy, but he didn’t expect the backlash.
“We never really dealt with a situation where people simply told us to go jump in a lake when we had to make those necessary orders to protect society,” Kaiser said.
A month later, dozens of citizens came before the Riverside County Board of Supervisors — many of them saying that their personal liberties had been infringed upon.
“You are trampling on the Constitution by agreeing to extend Dr. Kaiser’s recommendations,” declared one resident.
Another said: “When we are inside, locked up because of health orders by Dr. Kaiser, we are weak. The American people are a free people.”…
On May 8, 2020, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors directed Kaiser to rescind his orders, so that the county would be more in line with the state. He said in the months that followed, the threats continued, and he was given fewer and fewer responsibilities at work.
Two months ago, Kaiser received a call from the Riverside County CEO telling him that his services were no longer needed. Kaiser says since his appointment as the county health officer in 2011, he’s had no issues or complaints about his work…
Kaiser’s experience is far from unique, said Lori Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Since the beginning of the pandemic, she said the group has tracked more than 250 public health officials leaving the field. While some of it is part of the normal ebb and flow of the workforce leaving or retiring, Freeman says much of it is “due to the pressures of this pandemic.”…
Despite what he has been through, Kaiser said he would make the same decisions again and wants to work in the field in the future.
“It’s more than just smoking and cholesterol and communicable diseases. There are so many issues that affect people’s health and the way that they live their lives, and you get a chance to be part of it,” he said. “When the job’s at its best, there’s no better job in the world.”” (D)
“Former President Trump and his GOP allies have stepped up attacks on Anthony Fauci, seizing on portions of his emails and a renewed interest in the origins of the coronavirus pandemic to demonize the nation’s top infectious disease doctor.
The attacks, which are largely based on out-of-context comments and draw on unsubstantiated conclusions, gloss over the Trump administration’s role in the nation’s early failures to respond to the pandemic.
Instead, conservative lawmakers and media personalities are lionizing the former president as someone betrayed by his advisers. Fauci is painted as a liar who misled both Trump and the American people, and is now facing calls for his resignation, prosecution, or both.
“Anthony Fauci’s recently released emails and investigative reporting about #COVID19 origins are shocking. The time has come for Fauci to resign and for a full congressional investigation into the origins of #COVID19 – and into any and all efforts to prevent a full accounting,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted recently…
The attacks on Fauci and public health officials “continues to sow seeds of doubt in the minds, particularly of Trump supporters, that the science isn’t to be trusted, and that what experts are telling them isn’t true,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law Center.
“And anytime you are sending that kind of a message, during a vital campaign to vaccinate the population, it is highly damaging,” Gostin said.” (E)
- A.She Says She Was Fired For Saying That Teens Don’t Need Parental Consent For Vaccines, by BILL CHAPPELL, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/07/13/1015742588/tennessees-ousted-vaccination-chief-blasts-politics-over-teen-vaccines
- B.Major exodus among public health officials during pandemic, By Sasha Pezenik andLaura Romero, https://abcnews.go.com/US/major-exodus-public-health-officials-pandemic/story?id=75679880
- C.Public health workers report being threatened and harassed during the pandemic, BY KATE GIBSON, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/public-health-workers-threatened-harassed-during-pandemic/
- D.The pandemic has pushed more than 250 public health officials out the door, By Nadia Kounang, https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/23/health/public-health-officials-quit/index.html
- E.GOP’s attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message, BY NATHANIEL WEIXEL, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/557468-gops-attacks-on-fauci-at-center-of-pandemic-message