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Public Health Officers Across Country Are Being Verbally Attacked, Threatened

Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten speaks at a San Diego County news conference on the coronavirus, March 19, 2020.
Zoë Meyers
Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten speaks at a San Diego County news conference on the coronavirus, March 19, 2020.
Around the country, a number of public health officials have resigned, retired or been fired, some after being verbally attacked or threatened in response to their repeated warnings of the crucial importance of wearing masks, social distancing and delayed reopening in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, frustration grows over the restrictions that health officials say are essential to defeating the virus.

Around the country, a number of public health officials have resigned, retired or been fired, some after being verbally attacked or threatened in response to their repeated warnings of the crucial importance of wearing masks, social distancing and delayed reopening.

Here in San Diego County, a speaker at the county board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday insulted public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten's physical appearance and publicly gave out her home address. The county has declined to comment on the issue of harassment.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the caller, Teresa Jeanna Konopka said, “for everyone who thinks Wooten is doing a good job, you know, feel free to give a high five or send her a letter. Her address is (address). Again Ms. Wooten’s address is (address).”

Konopka told the U-T that she didn't share Wooten's address intending for anyone to cause her harm. She said a sheriff's detective called her after the meeting to question her motivation, as well.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester, a senior correspondent for California Healthline and Kaiser Health, has written about how public health officials around the country are coming under assault for their input on how to respond to the pandemic. She joins Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss her reporting.

Corrected:
Editor's note: This story has been updated to say Konopka insulted Dr. Wilma Wooten's physical appearance.