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Former California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell on Feb. 27 in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At least 48 local and state-level public health leaders have retired, resigned or been fired across 23 states since April, according to a review by the AP and Kaiser Health News.

Driving the news: California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell resigned on Sunday without explanation, a few days after the state fixed a delay in reporting coronavirus test results that had affected reopenings for schools and businesses, AP reports.

  • New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot also resigned last week, citing "deep disappointment" that Mayor Bill de Blasio did not use the full extent of available disease control expertise to handle the pandemic.
  • Ohio health director Amy Acton, who helped shape Gov. Mike DeWine's (R) stringent response to the pandemic, resigned in June and said the demands of the job were not a "sustainable thing." Republican lawmakers attempted to strip her of the authority to issue lasting state health orders in May and protesters picketed outside of her home on multiple occasions.
  • West Virginia Public Health Commissioner Cathy Slemp was forced to resign in June after Gov. Jim Justice (R) openly criticized her at a press conference for allegedly overreporting the number of active coronavirus cases in the state.

Why it matters: The U.S. is reporting the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world and has still not controlled the outbreak. The country's day-to-day response has largely been guided by local leaders — governors, mayors, and the health officials they rely on for recommendations.

Between the lines: "Public health leaders from Dr. Anthony Fauci down to officials in small communities have reported death threats, intimidation and personal attacks on themselves or their families," per AP.

  • Many of the resignations and firings are related to conflicts over shutting down businesses to enforce social distancing or issuing statewide face covering mandates, the CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials told AP.
  • Fauci said last week that his daughters and other members of his family were receiving death threats and harassment, telling CNN that he wouldn't have imagined in his "wildest dreams" that people would threaten officials over "pure public health principles."

Go deeper

Updated Nov 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucusColorado Governor and partner test positive.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday as crisis engulfs league, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Chuck Grassley says he tested positive for COVID-19

Sen. Chuck Grassley. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Stringer

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has tested positive for the coronavirus, adding Wednesday that he remains "symptom free."

Why it matters: Grassley is the second oldest member of the Senate at 87 years old, meaning he is at high risk for a severe infection, according to the CDC. The Iowa senator is the third in the line of succession to the presidency as president pro tempore of the Senate.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

Rahm Emanuel. Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.