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Opinion | The Fauci Awards: Health Officials Get the Praise They Deserve – The New York Times

Posted: November 26, 2020 at 1:55 am

From New York, its the Fauci Awards 2020. [MUSIC PLAYING] Good evening, and welcome to the Faucis. Were following social distance rules, of course, so no audience tonight. But we wont let that stop us from celebrating our extraordinary public health officials. Theyre the doctors and scientists who keep our water clean, our restaurants safe. They stop outbreaks of disease and even keep mosquitoes from taking over. And in 2020, theyre our front-line defense against Covid-19. So what better year than this to celebrate their life-saving public service by giving out some of these? [BEEPING] OK, this isnt real. Theres no glitzy ceremony for any of these people. There never was. Instead, theyre getting a lot of this. This mask mandate is ridiculous. He doesnt know what hes talking about. She needs to be fired. And you, doctor, are going to be arrested for crimes against humanity. Oh, wait, theres more. A Boone County Health Department official has received death threats. Death threat. Two death threats. She received threats. Unprecedented personal attacks. Numerous hostile threats. Threatening to kill the Santa Clara County health officer. [MUSIC PLAYING] Wed better show them some recognition, and fast. So you know what? Were going to do this thing. From New York, its the Fauci Awards 2020. Our first award recognizes outstanding efforts to protect workers from the coronavirus. Lets take a look at this years winner. Dr. Mark Wallace is everything you want in a public health official. Twenty-five years of experience in Weld County, Colorado, and a great communicator. In April, with cases skyrocketing at a meatpacking plant, he pressured the company to close the factory, all this while facing pressure from politicians to reopen the county. This rural community is lucky to have Dr. Wallaces leadership. Now, this is usually the moment when the winner steps up to collect their award and deliver a speech. Not this year. The head of the health department suddenly retiring last week in the midst of the crisis. Dr. Mark Wallace worked in Weld County for 25 years. [MUSIC PLAYING] Youll be glad to know that Dr. Wallace was replaced by and this is true the local fire chief. Im sure hell be super useful in the next outbreak of West Nile virus. Our next award is for Outstanding Public Health on a Low Budget. Lets meet our winner. What do you do when a pandemic strikes and all you have are outdated computers to process the data? Thats the challenge that faced West Virginias state health officer, Dr. Cathy Slemp. After years of funding cuts, the states computer network was virtually obsolete. Hospitals and labs were sending daily case numbers by fax, which then had to be manually entered into a database. Nevertheless, Dr. Slemp, with her 20 years of experience, worked tirelessly to process the case numbers as quickly as possible. Wed love for Dr. Slemp to be here to collect her award, but Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, well, he had other ideas. Dr. Cathy Slemp, who was helping oversee the states coronavirus response, was asked to submit her resignation. And she did. after Gov. Jim Justice accused her agency of inflating virus case numbers. [DRAMATIC MUSIC] If you live in West Virginia, your governor just cost you a scientist with 20 years of local experience. But hey, on the plus side, youve got a lot of fax machines. O.K., onto our most prestigious award of the evening, celebrating outstanding commitment to science and data. In late May, when the country was beginning to open, Dr. Nichole Quick was worried about the effect that could have on infection rates in Orange County, California. So she did what any responsible public health officer would do she made masks mandatory in public spaces. It wasnt popular with everyone, but it was a smart compromise to keep people safe while still reopening the economy. Sometimes the right decision isnt the popular one. And thats why it takes guts to be a public health officer. But you dont need me to tell you what happened next. Orange Countys public health director has resigned. Supervisors say there were perceived threats against her at a May 26th board meeting. [MUSIC PLAYING] She needs to be fired. She needs to be fired because she is taking aim at our health. One official linked Dr. Quicks hasty exit to the mask debate. Shed received threats and needed special security. Weve handed out just three awards tonight, but there are at least 60 stories just like these. Somebody suggested she should be shot. Threats to my life and the life of my family members, especially my children. Im angry. Im tired. And it shouldnt be this way. Whew, I dont get emotional on this thing, but Im emotional. Over 250,000 Americans have died. This is what happens when we dont listen to our scientists. It shouldnt be this way. Our public health officials deserve our trust, our support, our recognition and, who knows, maybe even a real awards ceremony one day. Until then, all we can offer is this. To all the public health officials working hard to keep us safe, thank you.

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Opinion | The Fauci Awards: Health Officials Get the Praise They Deserve - The New York Times

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