West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice pressured out the state’s top health official after claiming that her workplace had overstated the variety of coronavirus cases.
Health State Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp abruptly resigned on Wednesday, hours after Justice known as her out by identify at a information convention, based on the West Virginia Metro News.
Justice, a Republican, introduced that Bill Crouch, the secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources, requested Slemp to step down.
“After the governor expressed to Secretary Crouch his lack of confidence in Dr. Slemp’s leadership of the Bureau for Public Health due to a series of recent events involving issues under her direct control, Secretary Crouch then asked for Dr. Slemp’s resignation, which she offered immediately,” the governor’s workplace stated in a press release.
Slemp has been the state’s health director since 2018 and was extremely seen at information conferences because the pandemic hit.
Her resignation got here after Justice, with none clarification, claimed that the division had “overstated” the variety of infections within the state.
“We had overstated the amount of active cases we have. If you’re going to get something wrong, we’d all be happier if it’s wrong to the good side,” he stated. “. . . We have every reason to believe that numbers I have been reporting to you the last few days are maybe inaccurate.”
Justice pointed to an outbreak at a jail in Huttonsville and claimed the numbers within the county the place the jail is positioned were overcounted with out offering any extra clarification.
“If we were on our game here in [the Department of Health and Human Services] — in Dr. Slemp’s office — if we’re on our game, and you’re listening to the governor say there’s six active cases at Huttonsville, and you’re looking at the reports, and you’re sending them to me on active cases, and you’re looking at Randolph County, and they’re reporting a hundred and some odd cases, then you’re not doing your job,” he stated.
Justice stated the state was nonetheless working to find out the discrepancy.
“We’re digging deep into the numbers right now,” he stated. “If anything, we have overstated the bad, meaning we don’t have as much bad as what we thought we had. But that doesn’t matter to me. I want the numbers to be right.”
The division stated in a press release to the Metro News that it labored to manually take away a number of the cases listed as energetic within the county, however there stay dozens of energetic cases regardless of the governor’s claims.
“This was a unique situation specific to the outbreak investigation of Huttonsville Correctional Center in that it required manual data entry,” the assertion stated. “On the COVID-19 Dashboard, Randolph County is still showing 56 open cases. The Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services will be working with the Randolph County Health Department to learn if there are additional case reports to be closed out associated with that outbreak.”
Slemp had a long time of public health expertise, the Associated Press famous. She was the founding director of the state’s public health emergency preparedness and response applications and sits on the board of scientific counselors on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Justice, a billionaire coal magnate who was elected regardless of having no political expertise, has pushed to “aggressively” reopen, the outlet added. West Virginia has seen cases rise in current weeks, and the nation hit its highest each day complete of latest infections on Wednesday. Justice has pushed again on calls to strengthen coronavirus restrictions and implement a masks requirement as quite a few different states have finished.
An identical state of affairs performed out in Florida, the place the architect of the state’s COVID-19 information dashboard was fired after she stated she refused to “manually change data” to “drum up support” for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen, which the governor denied.
Lori Tremmel Freeman, the chief government of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, stated that “dozens of top health officials have resigned or been fired since the pandemic began,” based on The New York Times. Many have stepped down after receiving threats in response to their public health insurance policies.
Dr. Amy Acton, the top health official in Ohio, stepped down earlier this month after quite a few anti-Semitic assaults and armed protests in entrance of her house.
Dr. Nichole Quick, the top health officer in Orange County, Calif., resigned after protests and threats over her order to require masks be worn in sure companies.
Emily Brown, the pinnacle of the Rio Grande County Public Health Department in Colorado was fired after threats and pushback for urging stricter restrictions.
“There’s a big red target on their backs,” Freeman instructed The Times. “They’re becoming villainized for their guidance. In normal times, they’re very trusted members of their community.”
“We’ve never seen this level of vitriol before,” Kat DeBurgh, the chief director of the Health Officers Association of California, added. “I’m worried not just about the present but about the future. When they’re subject to such harassment, who is going to step into these jobs?”