California health officers facing protests, even death threats, over coronavirus – Health News Today

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.”

Nationwide, more than two dozen public health officers have stepped down in recent weeks, although some had…