Senators comment on 7 recent public health official resignations
Seven local public health officials across California have announced their resignations in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of departures includes Nevada County Public Health Officer Dr. Ken Cutler, San Benito County Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Yolo County Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman, Butte County Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Miller, Orange County Public Health Director David Souleles, and San Bernardino County Public Health Director Trudy Raymundo.
The most recent resignation came from Orange County Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick, who last Monday announced she would leave the position. At the end of May, Dr. Quick issued a countywide order, mandating individuals wear face coverings in public. Quick faced intense backlash in response to the order and ultimately decided to resign.
Her replacement, Acting County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, on Friday ended the requirement for residents to wear masks.
During a recent Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response meeting, Sen. Richard Pan, MD, used his opening remarks to raise concern about the 7 resignations, specifically pointing to Dr. Quick’s experience.
In his comments, he told the committee that her resignation wasn’t planned before COVID, it was in response to receiving death threats, being personal attacked, having her personal address announced at a hearing, and bullying.
“Dr. Quick, whether you agree or disagree with her as a public health officer, is a dedicated public servant who is doing her best to try to protect Orange County from a public health threat,” said Pan. “And if we as a state are going to say that localism is determinative, which is appropriate, then we need to protect our county public health officers. They need to have the support from the state, and it’s sad to say they also perhaps need personal protection. They should certainly not be subjected to personal attacks, to doxing, inciting people to go attack them personally and their families, to bullying and intimidation.”
Sen. Pat Bates, who represents part of Orange County, also offered her support to Dr. Quick during the committee meeting. She said Quick had done an “incredible job” during the COVID pandemic.
“It’s unfortunate. She is a great health officer and I’m sure a great career still awaits her, so it was unfortunate. But we should give them all the support we can because as my colleagues have said, they’re there to protect us,” said Bates.
The California Medical Association also put out a statement stating it was “deeply disturbed and saddened by unfair attacks” on local health officers.
“We are deeply concerned that politics may be trumping public interest in some of these cases, and that the public’s health may be compromised as a result,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “The COVID-19 crisis is not over. We must continue to have a coordinated state and local response that is rooted in science and civility. We must do all we can to support our local health officials who are providing the courage and leadership California needs to continue to navigate this health crisis.”