Live from New York (sort of): Gail Newel appears in “The Faucis”
Santa Cruz’s Dr. Gail Newel was featured briefly Wednesday in a New York Times op-ed video. The mock awards show, called “The Faucis,” honored the work of officials managing community health while facing down a torrent of mistrust, harassment, and even death threats amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to The Times, more than 60 public health officials across the United States have resigned, retired, or been fired since the pandemic began, including eight in California.
“We better show them some recognition, and fast,” says the emcee,
actor Michael Padula, dressed in a tidy suit. He awards one Colorado health official, Dr. Mark Wallace, a Fauci for his commitment to protecting low-wage workers. In West Virginia, health officer Dr. Cathy Slemp receives an award for “Outstanding Public Health on a Low Budget.” In California, fromer Orange County health official Dr. Nichole Quick gets the Fauci for her commitment to science and data, for requiring mask wearing in public spaces as the economy reopened in May.
What do these health officers have in common? Their excellence, in the real world, earned them early retirements, forced resignations, and death threats, according to the video.
Dr. Newel, featured at 5 minutes, 23 seconds, says she, too, received threats to her life, and to the lives of her children. The abuse came to a head after she signed an order in May closing county beaches from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily to discourage summer tourism. Angry emails and voicemails piled up. Protesters visited her home. She said that, at one point, County Sheriff Jim Hart asked her to stop attending in-person board meetings, saying he could no longer guarantee her safety.
Despite the challenges, the health officer says she has no intention to resign. “I feel like I’m the right person, in the right place, at the right time to do this job,” she said. “I’ve had moments where I’ve thought about it, but I believe in the work that I’m doing.”
“Our public health officers deserve our trust, our support, and who knows, maybe even a real awards ceremony one day,” concludes the emcee. “Until then, all we can offer is this: To all the public health officials working hard to keep us safe, thank you.”