In recent weeks, many of our nation’s top health officials have been physically threatened or verbally attacked. Protective details are now an unfortunate necessity for experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia’s commissioner of the Department of Public Health.
Barbara Ferrer, health director for Los Angeles County, has received death threats. Other leaders such as California’s Dr. Nichole Quick and Ohio’s Amy Acton have been subjected to protests in front of their homes or personal attacks that have resulted in them stepping down. Since April, 27 state and local health officials in 13 states have either resigned, retired or been fired.
We are fortunate to have in our state two of the nation’s finest public health servants, Dr. Alex Billioux, who leads the Louisiana Department of Health Office of Public Health, and Dr. Jennifer Avegno, who leads the New Orleans Health Department. Both of them have been steadfast advisers to Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, elected officials and the public. As a result of their sound scientific advice, decisions have been made that surely have saved many lives in Louisiana.
Unfortunately, the summer heat does not seem to be slowing the virus down like we had hoped and the battle against this disease is far from over. Although we all want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 is not done with us.
While we continue to wage war on the virus, we need to continue to support the generals who are leading us into battle. We need to ensure that brave and honest people will sign up to do the difficult and demanding jobs of public health service, without having to risk the quality of their lives or their personal safety. We may not like what the scientists and experts have to say about COVID — but to beat COVID we will have to listen.
REBEKAH E. GEE, M.D., MPH, FACOG
LSU Healthcare Services
MARKALAIN DERY, DO, MPH, FACOI