News | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | July 07, 2020| Dave Fornell, Editor

American Heart Association Denounces Threats to Public Health Leaders Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic 

AHA raises public safety concerns over threats of harm to health officials offering advice based on clinical science

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been the target of threats over his suggestions on how to contain the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. Photo by Jonathan Wyett, U.S. Department of State

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been the target of threats over his suggestions on how to contain the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. Photo by Jonathan Wyett, U.S. Department of State

July 7, 2020 — In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, public health officials worldwide are working tirelessly to slow the spread of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) by making evidence-based recommendations to the public, However, there has been push back to these recommendations for public safety from conservative elements in many areas, including death threats sent to public health officials. The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a statement condemning these threats and calling for the public to listen to officials offering evidence-based medicine recommendations to help contain the pandemic.

The AHA said these pubic health officials are collaborating with health systems to provide the best care for patients and advising communities on how to reopen their economies while protecting the health of their residents and averting future shutdowns. Coronavirus has become politicized in the past few months where some segments of the population feel the virus is being used to gain political leverage by one political party or the other. President Trump has attempted to downplay the virus and the need for facemasks while pushing to reopen the U.S. economy and lift containment restrictions. This has been counter to what public health officials have advocated for. The early lifting of containment and resistance to facemasks has led to a drmatic rise in newly reported infections across southern and western states recently, from Florida to California. Citing evidence-based medicine, public health officials say if basic precautions are not followed or supported by the federal, state and local governments, the virus will continue to spread and require further shutdowns in or COVID-19 hot spots, and possibly overwhelm hospitals if there is a rapid rise in cases. 

Health officials, including Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the key thought leader on the federal response efforts, have often been severely criticized and received threats for supporting basic containment efforts that include facemasks, limits on public gatherings and contact tracing. Some of the more pronounced threats to public health officials have included armed protesters at state capitals like in Michigan calling for an end to containment efforts or forcing the public to wear face masks.

"We are deeply troubled to see the expertise and authority of these public health champions being undermined in ways that threaten public confidence in those who are best suited to protect the health and safety of our communities," the AHA stated. "Public health officials deserve our thanks and support for their efforts to respond to this historic pandemic while continuing their critical work to prevent disease, end tobacco use, ensure the safety of our food supply and countless other measures to promote good health. What they do not deserve are threats of personal harm, attacks on their professional integrity or pressure in any form to cease speaking to the best available science."

The AHA said at risk are the health and well-being of our communities, particularly low-income populations and communities of color that found themselves unprepared for the pandemic and unable to adequately respond. "The unconscionably high rates of severe disease and death from COVID-19 among people of color have added urgency to our ongoing efforts to strengthen the public health infrastructure and improve disease surveillance data collection," the AHA stated. "This requires a robust, sustained investment in the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health departments at the state, local, territorial and tribal levels."

The AHA said it has fought heart disease and stroke for nearly 100 years. "Science always has been, and always will be, at the heart of our efforts," the AHA said. "In response to this pandemic, we are proudly working in collaboration with public health experts, healthcare providers, scientists and policymakers in the United States and around the world to share evidenced-based information and promote fundamental practices – including hand washing, physical distancing, mask wearing, testing, contact tracing and rapid containment – to slow the spread of COVID-19. We stand in solidarity with our public health colleagues and health officials worldwide in promoting science- and evidence-based information and resources that will save lives."

The American Heart Association is a leading force has done nearly a century of lifesaving work. The Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. The AHA collaborates with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies and share lifesaving resources and information.
 

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