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September 26, 2021

Public health workers leaving ‘in droves’ amid COVID-19 burnout

Public health, a field already shrinking before the pandemic, is experiencing a sharp downward trend. As of late last year, over 180 public health officials resigned or were fired from their posts in 38 states.

“I worry that the field is going to [keep losing] a lot of people – people who are nearing retirement age, but also the people around my age,” said one anonymous public health data analyst in New York City. “They are already burned out and are leaving the workforce in droves.”

Alexandra worked in the public health emergencies unit in a major north-eastern city at the beginning of the pandemic. She estimates that she and her colleagues worked the equivalent of three full-time years in 12 months.

“There was no overtime, there was no hazard pay,” Alexandra said. She was one of 25 staff members who left the department since the start of the pandemic.

One anonymous public health worker said they face pressure from elected officials to alter data to fit a political agenda.

“When they didn’t like how our [data on] vaccination coverage by race/ethnicity was looking, they actually asked me – the least senior member of the health department – to edit the data to artificially inflate BIPOC categories,” said the anonymous employee, an epidemiologist at a Connecticut health department.

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US public health workers leaving ‘in droves’ amid pandemic burnout

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