More Americans Think Harassing Health Officials Amid COVID Pandemic ‘Justified’, Study Reveals
© AP Photo / Jae C. Hong Respiratory therapist and registered nurse cover a body of a COVID-19 patient with a sheet at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021
© AP Photo / Jae C. Hong
Attacks on public health officials reached unprecedented levels during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. These included harassment and threats over the telephone, social media, and in person that have resulted in property vandalism, the publishing of private information online and encounters with armed protestors at the officials’ homes.
One in five Americans believe that threatening or harassing public health officials over business closures like those seen last summer in connection with COVID-19 is justified, a new survey has revealed.
The Johns Hopkins University survey, which was published by the medical journal JAMA Open Network on 29 July, found that the percentage of adults who held the aforementioned view rose from 15% to 21% from November 2020 to the summer of 2021. They even include adults who 'trust science'.
According to the study, the biggest increases were among respondents who were male, identified as Hispanic and those from the Republican Party. Additionally, there were increases among people who earn $35,000-$74,999 and $75,000 or higher.
The survey noted that although former US President Donald Trump had been blamed for flouting public health measures, sentiments endorsing harassment and threats continued to rise after Joe Biden was sworn in in January 2021 and amid optimistic projections about COVID vaccinations and falling case rates.
The researchers pointed out that most respondents who thought attacks on public health officials were acceptable felt the same way about attacks on politicians, something that apparently reflects the view that health officials make inherently political decisions.
The study also singled out “[coronavirus] pandemic fatigue,” misinformation and a shifting knowledge base about how to avoid COVID-19 as reasons for the crackdown.
Commenting on the survey’s results, Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy Dean Colleen L. Barry, the senior author of the study, told Cornel University that “we can see the human cost of this harassment.”
“Public health workers are leaving the profession in large numbers and those who have chosen to stay report dealing with mental health consequences”, Barry added.
Attacks on public health officials reached unprecedented levels during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with officials describing everything from harassment and threats over the telephone to encountering armed protestors at their homes.
A 2021 survey of public health workers found that at least 23% reported feeling bullied, threatened, or harassed because of their jobs in the first year of the pandemic.