Attacks on Public Health Officials During COVID-19

(This perspective was first published in JAMA Network on August 5, 2020.)

New Faculty: Michelle Mello
Professor Michelle Mello

On June 24, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom remarked on a disturbing phenomenon: health officers are “getting attacked, getting death threats, they’re being demeaned and demoralized.”1 At least 27 health officers in 13 states (including Nichole Quick of Orange County in southern California, Ohio Health Director Amy Acton, and West Virginia Health Officer Cathy Slemp) have resigned or been fired since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Across the US, health officers have been subject to doxing (publishing private information to facilitate harassment), angry and armed protesters at their personal residences, vandalism, and harassing telephone calls and social media posts, some threatening bodily harm and necessitating private security details.

(Continue reading the perspective on JAMA Network’s page here.)

Michelle Mello is part of Stanford Law School and Stanford Health Policy, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California. Jeremy A. Greene is with the Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, and Joshua M. Sharfstein is with the Department of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.