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Most local health officials don’t accept their jobs expecting to be roped into political activism.

Amid Covid-19, though, politics became a central element of health experts’ job descriptions. In Washington, government researcher Anthony Fauci publicly feuded with former President Trump. In many cities and states, local health departments were forced to square off against governors who resisted coronavirus mitigation strategies like business closures or mask mandates.


The series of squabbles has raised the question of whether, to be effective, local health officials need to add politics to their list of day-to-day responsibilities. And while the fights have been most pronounced amid the pandemic, they’ve even cropped up in states otherwise lauded for their coronavirus response, like West Virginia.

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  • Political leaders and public health professionals who do not stand up for the most efficacious disease prevention strategies are, in part, morally responsible for the deaths of their neighbors.

    By withholding lifesaving education and treatment those in public office are protecting their jobs at the expense of their neighbors, and constituents, lives.

    • Jim, what your are saying here is preposterous.

      The idea that we should embrace “the most efficacious disease strategies” is naive in the extreme.

      You know what the most efficacious disease strategy is?

      Never eating…well, maybe meat. but who knows?

      Maybe never drinking alcohol…but maybe alcohol in moderation is OK? And what constitutes “moderation?” Does anyone REALLY know?

      Look, here’s the reality. Our scientists, our investigators, our public health officials are GUESSING! That’s right, they are guessing.

      Moreover, they have no real knowledge about the tradeoffs, one set of risks vs. other risk management issues. They have no ability to understand, for example, the effect of unintended consequences.

      Your attitude, “standing up for disease prevention strategies” is crude indeed, because, in fact, they are guessing about such strategies.

    • I happen to fully agree with Jim Voltz. Political leaders must be willing to listen to public health officials, and the “public” part of the public health officials’ job says it all: must advocate for and defend whatever is better for the public, and that includes minimizing disease and accidental spread (scattered needles). What everyone ought to realize though is that things like needle exchange centers etc. have to be in the nighbourhoods where they are most needed / used. Downtown likely. That would solve part of the problem of acceptance of i.e. needle exchange programs.

  • You can’t call it political to defy the CDC as if the CDC is not already 100% political as a political department of the totally political US federal government, the following of which could not possibly be more political, as is the AMA and all organizations making the political claim that they are “scientific”.

    • Completely totally unequivocally agree.

      The minute a public health official generates a recommendation that affects public policy, they have become a political actor.

      And no hiding behind “the science’ can mitigate that.

  • Without the 1:1 rule, it would be misleading to call it a “needle exchange”. It would be needle distribution or needle give-away, calling a give-away and “exchange” is not only political, it is political deception.

  • As a person who grew up in WV (but has travelled the world for my USAF career), I think part of the problem is a generational or cultural belief that people who use drugs deserve what they get–that is, since they use drugs it’s their own fault they got HIV or Hepatitis. A better strategy than scientific facts, would be to point out how a drug users’ disease affects innocent people they come in contact with (unborn children, spouses, customers).

  • Many products come with disclaimer warnings. If a health official were to provide a clean needle(product) so that a “user” could go out and buy another product that is not only illegal, but it has no oversight,like the FDA. What happens when said “user” dies of an overdose? Whose fault is it? This issue does not have many quick solutions.

    • Good one! all government jobs are inherently, 100% political, as are all jobs since they involve decisions made by more than one person, ie, office politics etc. Sole proprietorships seem devoid of politics only because they are little autocracies, still 100% political. The only apolitical decisions are those you make when your alone and which only effect yourself.

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