Dr. Barbara Ferrer released the following statement in response to threats received during the COVID-19 emergency: "COVID-19 has upended thousands and thousands of lives all across the nation. The virus has changed our world as we know it, and people are angry. As of today, 83,397 cases have been reported in Los Angeles County and 3,120 people have died from this virus. We mourn every single one of those deaths, and we are working tirelessly to slow the spread of COVID-19 and find good solutions for the future of our communities.
And while the devastation experienced by so many is heartbreaking, it is also disheartening that an increasing number of public health officials, across the country—myself included—are threatened with violence on a regular basis. In my case, the death threats started last month, during a COVID-19 Facebook Live public briefing when someone very casually suggested that I should be shot. I didn’t immediately see the message, but my husband did, my children did, and so did my colleagues. One reason I handle these briefings myself is to shield the extraordinary team at L.A. County Public Health from these attacks which have been going on, via emails, public postings, and letters—since March. It is deeply worrisome to imagine that our hardworking infectious disease physicians, nurses, epidemiologists and environmental health specialists or any of our other team members would have to face this level of hatred.
Our job and our calling is to keep as many people as safe as possible during this pandemic. We did not create this virus. We come into work every single day prepared to do our very best, prepared to work with everyone, with all of our partners, to try to continue to contain this pandemic and to try to continue to minimize the loss of life. And while frustration boils over in our communities as people are done with this virus, this virus is not done with us.
As public health officials, we try hard not to be influenced by partisan politics or public sentiment – we must follow the science in order to save lives. And the science says if we don’t change the way we go about our daily routines, we could pay for it with our lives or the lives of others around us. Change is hard, but we must change if we want to contain this virus. Face coverings must be worn because they help to stop the spread of the virus. I recognize there is a lot of pushback from people not wanting to wear face coverings—when wearing a seatbelt was made mandatory in California there was a lot of pushback, too. But the data proves that seatbelts save lives, and the data also proves that wearing a face covering will help stop transmission of COVID-19, which will save lives. And that’s what drives public health officials and is our passion: saving lives."