This is about the COVID-19 article in last week’s paper. Public health officials are under attack across the nation. Some are criticized for being too permissive; others are physically threatened for being too protective. Employers of these officials have a duty not only to inspire them to perform well, but also to protect and defend them from public attack. In Siskiyou County, however, the culture of disrespect that largely confines itself to the Board of Supervisors’ chambers spilled out onto the front page of the Siskiyou Daily News. One supervisor said it is “beyond [his] comprehension” as to why our public health officials don’t act with “common sense” – even though he “gets” there are “rules and regulations and HIPAA.” He went on to chastise the officials for not being responsive enough in answering questions, and then purported to usurp their authority by “blessing” the holding of a large risk-laden public event.
If someone is “beyond comprehension” as to why public health officials make certain COVID-related decisions, the reason is likely because they do not have advanced degrees and training in medicine, nursing, epidemiology, or public health policy. I do not have these degrees – but I am darn glad my Siskiyou County public health officials do. Even though I may not like certain of their decisions, I am exceedingly grateful these decisions are based on educated, informed, evidence-based medical science and public policy. I am glad my public health officials follow the “rules and regulations” that legally bind us. I also see how hard these officials work. I, for one, am more than willing to give these qualified and dedicated employees the patience and grace each of us in similar circumstances would deeply appreciate.
I am a member of the same employing board as the quoted supervisor, and I denounce the humiliating statements made about our educated, hardworking, public health department employees. I am humbled by the training, stamina, and courage they have displayed in serving us, and I am proud to be associated with them in this time of unprecedented crisis. I also hope the culture of disrespect can abate in years to come so that county job positions are as coveted as they once were.
District 4 Supervisor