On Wednesday, September 23, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to protect local health officers and other public health officials on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. The order permits these individuals to participate in the Secretary of State’s address-confidentiality program, to reduce the kind of harassment many public health officials have been subject to – often in their own homes and in front of their families – in recent months.

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In response to Newsom’s executive order, California Medical Association President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D., and Health Officers Association of California Executive Director Kat DeBurgh, MPH, issued the following statement:

“The California Medical Association and the Health Officers Association of California strongly support the executive action taken by Gov. Newsom to protect the safety of public health officers around the state. It is sad that this order is necessary in the first place, as public servants who are only out to protect public health have come under increasing personal attacks. Many local health officials have been targeted in their homes, and by extremists who have stepped up their efforts to intimidate those who promote science and public health.

As a direct result of these threats and increased political pressure since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have seen an exodus of public health officers across the state, who serve crucial roles in managing our state’s pandemic response and protecting our communities. This year alone, 10 local health officials have resigned or been removed from their posts. This puts all Californians at risk.

It is an unfortunate reality that our public health officers need additional protections under the law so they can continue to do their jobs in a way that puts the public’s health and best interest above all other concerns.

We are proud to stand with the Newsom Administration and public health officers around the state who even before the COVID-19 pandemic have worked tirelessly – and sometimes in the face of great political pressure – to ensure that decisions based on science and common sense find their way into our public policy."

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