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California health officers facing protests, even death threats, over coronavirus orders

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A colleague texted Dr. Erica Pan, the health officer for Alameda County, a photo of the yard sign. It showed a photo of her with the words “Financially destroyed families and businesses” and “#A–holeMD.”

“I’m getting antagonism in all sorts of ways,” said Dr. Pan, who has been trolled on social media, received threats to come to her house and been vilified on websites that rate doctors. “These things distract from the important public health work I need to do to protect the community; that’s my job. Where I get upset is if it tries to invade my personal and family life. I really don’t want my family to be dragged into this.”

She isn’t alone. Across California and the country, public health officers have become targets of protests, intimidation and even death threats from people who resent mandates to slow the spread of the coronavirus by sheltering in place, closing businesses and wearing masks.

Health officers, who are physicians appointed by elected boards of supervisors, ordinarily are low-profile civil servants. But during the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, by law they are the ultimate authorities behind the sweeping orders that have transformed everyday life for millions of people.

While polls show most Californians support the pandemic prevention measures, a vocal minority expresses opposition by harassing health officers.

In the Bay Area, protesters have mobilized outside the homes of health officers in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties carrying signs such as “God hates liars.” Threats against Dr. Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County health officer, are so serious that she now has security protection. Dr. Chris Farnitano, the Contra Costa County health officer, said on a podcast that security had been stepped up around his office and home.

“Health officers and local health directors are working 80 hours a week to fight a virus,” said Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the Health Officers Association of California. “At the same time, they’re subject to some really vicious attacks, getting threatened by members of the public.”

Like many public health officers, Dr. Erica Pan, the Alameda County public health officer, has been the target of harassment by people upset about directives to curb the pandemic.

Nationwide, more than two dozen public health officers have stepped down in recent weeks, although some had planned retirements. In California eight local health officials and two state officials have resigned since the pandemic started, DeBurgh said.

On Tuesday, Dr. Pan became the ninth resignation, saying she will leave Alameda County to become state epidemiologist and deputy director overseeing the Center for Infectious Dieseases. The change is unrelated to the harassment, she said. “If anything, this will be similar in that I’ll be enforcing statewide guidances (to combat the coronavirus) so will be a public face and probably get more” targeting, she said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the badgering issue in a press briefing last Wednesday.

“Some of the health directors (are) getting attacked, getting death threats, they’re being demeaned and demoralized,” he said. “I just want to apologize to all those health directors … because all they want to do is keep you healthy and safe using data, using science. It’s not a political issue. This is not some ideological issue.”

But many protesters see the pandemic through the lens of politics and ideology.

“People who are ideologically against vaccines are expanding into this related issue and have found common allies with COVID denialists, COVID conspiracy theorists, right-wing fringe groups concerned about government overreach,”said Richard Carpiano, a professor of public policy and sociology at UC Riverside, who studies the anti-vaccination movement, which has led organizing of protests over pandemic measures. “They see this as the government overstepping its bounds.”

Some people behind the protests targeting health officers said they feel justified for that very reason, pointing to examples such as contact tracing, an initiative to interview newly infected people about others who may have been exposed to the virus.

“Isn’t it also intimidating that they’re talking about a contact-tracing army that’s going to come to our homes?” said Stefanie Fetzer, an Orange County homemaker and co-founder of Freedom Angels Foundation, an anti-vaccine group that is organizing demonstrations over coronavirus measures. “I feel threatened that they want to put me in a database and track my family’s comings and goings because of coronavirus. That, to me, is very un-American.”

Public health officers said that contact tracing is voluntary — people can refuse to give information without consequences — and noted that it generally happens by telephone.

“Contact tracing is a vital public health protection,” DeBurgh said. “Opposing contact tracing is like telling the fire department you have the right to let your house burn down regardless of the risk to your neighbors.”

Fetzer also said mask requirements are onerous. Two of her children have sensory processing issues and panic disorders that are exacerbated by wearing face masks, she said.

Fetzer defended Freedom Angels’ protests. “Our taking it to the county public health officers’ homes has been very peaceful with chalk drawing and children there,” she said. “Calling it intimidation is almost a tactic against us.”

Facebook removed three videos the group posted of its protests outside health officers’ homes, including that in Contra Costa County.

Dr. Erica Pan, the Alameda County public health officer, at her office in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, June 25, 2020. Dr. Pan, like many other public health officers, has been the target of harassment by people upset about directives to curb the pandemic, such as wearing masks.

“While we believe in protecting people’s ability to express their views and organize peaceful protests on our platform, we have determined that these videos violate our policies so we have taken them down,” Facebook said in a statement. The issue was that the content revealed personally identifiable information, the company added.

Videos still on the group’s Facebook streams showed the protesters staying in the public right of way and interacting peacefully with police officers, but their commentaries included strident statements such as, “We will be relentless, we won’t stop, we will show up at every single house.” In Santa Clara, one protester said the presence of security guards shows “the hypocrisy just reeks” and is “really really sick.”

“Hey public health officers you’re in our cross hairs,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “We need to start making them very uncomfortable,” one member said in a video, speaking of public health officers as well as city council members and county supervisors.

Some experts say the hostility toward health officers can be traced to the White House.

“It’s very unfortunate that President Trump has set the tone of not supporting science and of making it OK to just lash out at other folks,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, San Francisco health officer.

Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco public health director, agreed. “The response at the highest office in the land (is to ignore) data, science and facts,” he said. “That feeds into the local dynamics we’re seeing across the country.”

In the Bay Area, some incendiary language toward health officers has come from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Incensed over orders to keep his Fremont manufacturing plant closed, Musk called Dr. Pan “unelected & ignorant” on Twitter and said she was acting “contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!” That inspired his fan base to further social media attacks on Dr. Pan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with more than two decades of medical experience.

All California county health officers are unelected by design to “to insulate them from politics,” DeBurgh said. “You want them to be a physician, not a politician who ran for office.”

Unlike many of their colleagues, Aragón and Colfax have not been targeted. While they may get emails from people who aren’t happy, those have not crossed the line into abuse.

“It’s fortunate that in San Francisco there’s been great public support for the efforts put forward,” Colfax said. Still, “the fact that we’re now in an age when public health officers are being harassed and attacked for doing what’s right for public health is of grave concern and reflects the very challenging dynamics we’re working in right now.”

Stephen Shortell, dean emeritus of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, worries about whether the attacks could deter doctors from taking these critical roles and could change the nature of the jobs.

“There’s now an expanded leadership role, need for emotional resilience, ability to communicate, be more in the public eye,” Shortell said.

Widespread anger from the devastating economic impact wrought by the shutdowns has left people searching for scapegoats.

“That’s what has led to so many people breaking down or snapping from stress, and lashing out at the most visible target, the public health officers,” Shortell said. “Certain members of the public see them as the ones restricting their freedom to reopen their businesses or go about what they want to do.”

In Alameda County, Dr. Pan said she understands and empathizes with how hard it’s been for everybody to cope with the pandemic.

“I support people’s freedom to protest (such as) coming to my office or a board meeting,” she said. “There are plenty of respectful letters, emails and advocacy to elected officials.”

Her message to protesters: “Alameda County, the whole county, is my patient and I’m trying to make the best decisions I can for a large diverse (population) with a lot of competing issues and priorities. We’re open to ongoing input and feedback but want it to be in a constructive way.”

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid

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Public Health Announces 69 Additional Positive COVID-19 Cases in Delaware, 2 New Deaths

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Public Health Announces 69 Additional Positive COVID-19 Cases in Delaware, 2 New Deaths – State of Delaware News



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SMYRNA (July 8, 2020) – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing 69 additional positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Delaware, as of 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Two new deaths were also reported. In addition, 63 individuals are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Delaware, 12 of whom are critically ill.

A total of 517 Delawareans have passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Individuals who have died from COVID-19 ranged in age from 21 to 104 years old. Of those who have died, 273 were females and 244 were males. A total of 249 individuals were from New Castle County, 92 were from Kent County, and 176 were from Sussex County.

The most recent deaths announced today ranged in age from 74 to 94. One individual was female and one was male. One individual was a resident of New Castle County and one was a resident of Sussex County. One individual had underlying health conditions.

To protect personal health information, DPH will not confirm specific information about any individual case, even if other persons or entities disclose it independently.

The latest Delaware COVID-19 case statistics* cumulatively since March 11, provided as of 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 8, include:

  • 12,531 total positive cases
  • New Castle County cases: 5,626
  • Kent County cases: 1,795
  • Sussex County cases: 5,008
  • Unknown County: 102
  • Females: 6,899; Males: 5,614; Unknown: 18
  • Age range: 0 to 104
  • Currently hospitalized: 63; Critically ill:12 (This data represents individuals currently hospitalized in a Delaware hospital regardless of residence, and is not cumulative.)
  • Delawareans recovered: 6,901
  • 117,674 negative cases**
    *Data are provisional and subject to change.
    **Data on negative cases are preliminary, based on negative results reported to DPH by state and commercial laboratories performing analysis.

Delaware is considering patients fully recovered seven days after the resolution of their symptoms. Three days after symptoms resolve, patients are no longer required to self-isolate at home; however, they must continue to practice strict social distancing for the remaining four days before returning to their normal daily routine.

Additional demographic data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, including race/ethnicity, more age-specific data and rates information by ZIP code, can be found on the Division of Public Health’s My Healthy Community data portal.

Information about testing events, including community testing sites and free-standing sites operated by the health care systems and hospitals, will be listed on the testing section of the Delaware coronavirus website at: https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing/. Please note for saliva-based testing events that while long-term care facilities are listed on the Curative registration site, they are not community-based testing sites. The long-term care facility registrations are not open to the public nor to family members of long-term care residents.

If you are sick with any of the following symptoms, stay home: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, chills, shaking with chills, loss of smell or taste. Other symptoms such as headache or digestive symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite) have been identified as potential symptoms related to COVID-19 and may prompt further screening, action or investigation. If you are sick and need essential supplies, ask someone else to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy to get what you need.

If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have symptoms of illness, make sure to distance yourself from others, particularly vulnerable populations. Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions – including serious heart conditions, chronic lung conditions, including moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity and those who are immunocompromised, including through cancer treatment – may have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Individuals who have complaints about individuals violating public gathering restrictions should contact state or local law enforcement. Concerns that a business may be violating operating restrictions should be directed to: HSPContact@delaware.gov. Questions related to business re-openings or operations as businesses reopen should go to COVID19FAQ@delaware.gov.

Individuals with questions about COVID-19 should call Delaware 2-1-1, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211, or email info@delaware211.org. Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Medically related questions regarding testing, symptoms, and health-related guidance can be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov. Questions regarding unemployment claims should be emailed to: UIClaims@delaware.gov.

In addition, the Division of Public Health asks any Delaware health care, long-term care, residential, or other high-risk facility with questions or concerns to email: DPH_PAC@delaware.govor call the DPH Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.

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Keep up to date by receiving a daily digest email, around noon, of current news release posts from state agencies on news.delaware.gov.

Here you can subscribe to future news updates.

SMYRNA (July 8, 2020) – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing 69 additional positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Delaware, as of 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Two new deaths were also reported. In addition, 63 individuals are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Delaware, 12 of whom are critically ill.

A total of 517 Delawareans have passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Individuals who have died from COVID-19 ranged in age from 21 to 104 years old. Of those who have died, 273 were females and 244 were males. A total of 249 individuals were from New Castle County, 92 were from Kent County, and 176 were from Sussex County.

The most recent deaths announced today ranged in age from 74 to 94. One individual was female and one was male. One individual was a resident of New Castle County and one was a resident of Sussex County. One individual had underlying health conditions.

To protect personal health information, DPH will not confirm specific information about any individual case, even if other persons or entities disclose it independently.

The latest Delaware COVID-19 case statistics* cumulatively since March 11, provided as of 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 8, include:

  • 12,531 total positive cases
  • New Castle County cases: 5,626
  • Kent County cases: 1,795
  • Sussex County cases: 5,008
  • Unknown County: 102
  • Females: 6,899; Males: 5,614; Unknown: 18
  • Age range: 0 to 104
  • Currently hospitalized: 63; Critically ill:12 (This data represents individuals currently hospitalized in a Delaware hospital regardless of residence, and is not cumulative.)
  • Delawareans recovered: 6,901
  • 117,674 negative cases**
    *Data are provisional and subject to change.
    **Data on negative cases are preliminary, based on negative results reported to DPH by state and commercial laboratories performing analysis.

Delaware is considering patients fully recovered seven days after the resolution of their symptoms. Three days after symptoms resolve, patients are no longer required to self-isolate at home; however, they must continue to practice strict social distancing for the remaining four days before returning to their normal daily routine.

Additional demographic data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, including race/ethnicity, more age-specific data and rates information by ZIP code, can be found on the Division of Public Health’s My Healthy Community data portal.

Information about testing events, including community testing sites and free-standing sites operated by the health care systems and hospitals, will be listed on the testing section of the Delaware coronavirus website at: https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing/. Please note for saliva-based testing events that while long-term care facilities are listed on the Curative registration site, they are not community-based testing sites. The long-term care facility registrations are not open to the public nor to family members of long-term care residents.

If you are sick with any of the following symptoms, stay home: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, chills, shaking with chills, loss of smell or taste. Other symptoms such as headache or digestive symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or lack of appetite) have been identified as potential symptoms related to COVID-19 and may prompt further screening, action or investigation. If you are sick and need essential supplies, ask someone else to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy to get what you need.

If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have symptoms of illness, make sure to distance yourself from others, particularly vulnerable populations. Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions – including serious heart conditions, chronic lung conditions, including moderate to severe asthma, severe obesity and those who are immunocompromised, including through cancer treatment – may have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Individuals who have complaints about individuals violating public gathering restrictions should contact state or local law enforcement. Concerns that a business may be violating operating restrictions should be directed to: HSPContact@delaware.gov. Questions related to business re-openings or operations as businesses reopen should go to COVID19FAQ@delaware.gov.

Individuals with questions about COVID-19 should call Delaware 2-1-1, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211, or email info@delaware211.org. Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Medically related questions regarding testing, symptoms, and health-related guidance can be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov. Questions regarding unemployment claims should be emailed to: UIClaims@delaware.gov.

In addition, the Division of Public Health asks any Delaware health care, long-term care, residential, or other high-risk facility with questions or concerns to email: DPH_PAC@delaware.govor call the DPH Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.

image_printPrint

Related Topics:  

Graphic that represents delaware news on a mobile phone

Keep up to date by receiving a daily digest email, around noon, of current news release posts from state agencies on news.delaware.gov.

Here you can subscribe to future news updates.





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