To the Editor:
Although she quickly gained millions of grateful fans on Facebook and across Ohio, Dr. Amy Acton — our well-spoken and knowledgeable health director — has stepped down. News outlets credit her with saving untold numbers of lives through the sound scientific advice she imparted to Gov. Mike DeWine. He, of course, also deserves credit for respecting her expertise. Not all states have been as fortunate.
But Acton joins many other medical professionals in leaving her post amid the pandemic. A recent report from Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press found that over two dozen public health officials across several states have resigned, retired or been fired since April. Reasons cited include the heavy workload, compounded by inadequate funding, and the stress of attacks by advocates of rapid economic reopening. One unhelpful factor is the attachment of political assumptions to common-sense practices like mask-wearing. Masks may feel strange and uncomfortable, but they protect us against the virus. Our health leaders tasked with explaining such unpopular facts have taken the brunt of nay-sayers’ rejection.
Acton faced threats to her personal safety. Offensive anti-Semitic memes appeared online and at protests. Picketers targeted her family home. Some brought guns. Her yard was vandalized. Republican officials fanned the flames. State Senator Andrew Brenner (Delaware Co.) and his wife posted a picture of Acton on Facebook with a comparison of her health policies to Nazi edicts. Arrogantly placing their own power above medical expertise, our Republican representatives voted to grant themselves authority to rescind state health department orders. A similar measure is still pending in the state senate, despite DeWine’s promised veto.
All but two Republicans in the House voted for the power grab. This includes our Northwest Ohio representatives: Ghanbari, Riedel, Hoops and others. They placed a political agenda above fact-based health considerations, flaunting a willingness to shift everyone’s well-being to shaky ground.
As DeWine himself observed, our state is unaccustomed to seeing women in positions of broad authority. It’s easy to imagine that our elected officials were discomfited by Acton’s self-confidence — her presumption of the right to speak — as much as by her recommendations for our safety. No doubt they’ll be happier since she has bowed out of the public eye. For the rest of us, it is our great loss.