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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 21 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker

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.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.