hero in hot seat

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CLICK HERE if you have a problem viewing photos on a mobile device.SAN JOSE – Maybe there is no winner for Dr. Sara Cody.

From the time that Santa Clara County is responsible for public health led the Bay Area’s first-in-the-nation coronavirus lockdown for 14 weeks, it suffered the wrath of a noisy audience at the taking of sight to all the damned-if-it-does, damned-if-it-does-not-do-it-fast-enough decision. In the past three months, many of her critics have turned heroes from public enemy to public enemy No. 1.

“I am the face of everything people could be upset about,” Cody said in an interview with the Bay Area News Group this week. “It’s a strange position, very strange position.”

The hot seat for Cody and other public health workers has only intensified in recent weeks, as the pain of our epic economic collapse has continued to grow in tandem with the deadly, invisible virus threat.

Protesters showed up at Contra Costa’s house of Public Health leadership for Chris Farnitano last Sunday, chalking the sidewalk and waving the signs that said “Open Contra Costa” and “No mask.” Tesla founder Elon Musk called Alameda County acting health officer Erica Pan “unelected and ignorant” and threatened to relocate his business out of state unless it allowed him to reopen his factory in Fremont. A Sunnyvale woman named Cody a “renegade doctor” in a letter to the editor, and a Cupertino woman bought a full page of newspaper advertising, accusing the doctor of personnel “cratering our economy.” This week, the sheriff’s department acknowledged an investigation into the threats against Cody.

It is too early to know how history will judge Santa Clara County is responsible for public health. But it is clear that this unelected public official with extraordinary powers is trying to maintain his singular accent – to end the pandemic before the end of us.

“I keep thinking about what my job is, what I am here to do, who can I work with and how can I work to make the best possible decision for people living in the Santa Clara County, ”Cody said. “It is very useful to stay focused on the mission and not to be distracted. There is a lot of noise, a lot of noise ”.

SAN JOSE, CA – MARCH 25: Santa Clara County Public Health branch of Lep Cody poses for a portrait, March 25, 2020, in San José, California. Cody has been at the forefront of the Bay Area in response to the coronavirus epidemic, including the dramatic legal shelter that is keeping nearly 6 million people at home. (Dai Sugano / Bay Area News Group)

Do you normally remember that? – public health workers are effectively invisible, keeping track of flu bugs and meningitis outbreaks.

Since the start of Coronavirus, seven public health officials across California have resigned over a combination of burnout and gambling. The health care provider’s Orange County resigned after criticism, upset about of his order to force people to wear masks, protested outside his house. Marty Fenstersheib, Cody’s predecessor, recently resigned from a similar role in particular San Benito County after a meeting supervisor wilted. Cody hired him to help track COVID cases.

“Health officials are working 80 hours a week to stop the spread of the disease – working hard since February. Many have not had a single day off, “said Kat DeBurgh, executive director of the California Association of Health Workers. “But add on top of that the angry public comments that are becoming personal attacks, and it’s very hard to position.”

In mid-March, when the order was locked, Santa Clara County was considered one of the few national “hot spots” for coronavirus outbreaks. Since then, the county has held its numbers to verify, with 151 deaths. Across the country, there have been 36 deaths per 100,000 population, while Santa Clara County has had 7.7 – or about one-fifth of the US death rate. Los Angeles is 28.8. In California, the death rate is 13. The rate for Alameda County, which has had a peak in the total number of cases in the past few weeks, is 6.9. The number of hospitalizations in Santa Clara County is down from 264 in early April to 48 Tuesday.

MARTINEZ, CA – MARCH 20: Dr. Chris Farnitano announces the first death of COVID-19 from Contra Costa County during a press conference at the Contra Costa Health Services in Martinez, Calif., Friday, March 20, 2020. ( Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group) Ray Chavez / Bay Region News Group

“I credit it directly to the whole county health department behind it,” said Dr. George Rutherford, a UCSF professor of epidemiology and public health. “In many ways, they have led the world in how to manage this epidemic, and the fact that the rest of the United States doesn’t seem to be paying attention – it’s not their fault. Just look at what’s going on in Phoenix. They have their Intensive Care units to exceed. ”

In Arizona, which lifted the measure of stay-at-home orders for more than a month, it’s seeing its never again, with 83% of its intensive care beds full earlier this week.

Cody says she understands the toll, the locking is addicting, the turmoil and the anxiety of returning to a normal life. “I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t feel that way, too,” she said.

And as a public health worker, she is trained in having a job and living a normal life is important for health and well-being. But the virus is difficult, she says, spreads easily and is deadly.

“You can never put someone back if they are dead. But if you can find the money, you can help someone who has lost a business or a job, “she said. “It is extremely difficult, but it is a way to move forward. Once you’re dead, there is no other way. There is no way to get a family member back. ”

And her strict rules are to work, she says.

“So we’ve been able to open up a number of different areas, we’re going a little slower than others, but what we don’t want to do is have them go back, because all the progress that was done would be lost. ”

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 31: Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody watches County Leadership Dr. Jeff Smith speaks during a press conference in San Jose, Calif., On Tuesday, May 31 March 2020. (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group) (Anda Chu / Bay Region News Group)

Shopping centers are open, eating out is allowed and summer camps, with strict restrictions, are open to children. Santa Clara County allowed interior retail in early June, before San Francisco. But unlike other countries with higher infection rates, Santa Clara County does not allow nail polish salons to operate or eat indoors.

As much as the foreclosure is blamed for crippling the economy, Cody said, businesses are still would be devastated if the virus went unchecked and people worried about getting sick stayed at home.

“It’s a very, very difficult part of the environment in which we try to make decisions,” she said. “I feel like I made 80,000” of them.

The county’s impressive progress against the disease, however, is mainly why critics say Cody must have started reopening early.

In an “open letter” on May 23 titled “Dr. CODY, YOU MUST ANSWER US,” former Cisco vice president and philanthropist Paulette Altmaier demanded in a full page of newspaper advertising to find out why Santa County Clara was not following Gavin Newsom’s own guidelines for reopening criteria that Cody had told reporters to be reopening “too fast”.

“Govt. Newsom, has thrown an opening of the plan and what we need to meet it. We meet by a mile, ”Atlmaier said in an interview. “Our country is not following it. We are the creation of compulsion, distress and despair. ”

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – MAY 01: Activists of signs and protests, locking out California due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 01, by 2020 in San Diego, California. Demonstrator demands included opening small businesses, churches, and support for the President of Trump. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

In the letter, she demanded that Cody justify her slow approach, and explain why she failed to meet her own goals on testing for illness and tracking contacts of infected people – benchmarks Cody had said were necessary as part of a reopening plan.

County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg asked some of the same questions, but took care to point them to Cody’s boss, County Executive, Jeff Smith.

“It seems to me unfair to messenger like a hero in early March, when she will put him out of order, the question of his expertise now because it has happened for a long period of time , ”Ellenberg said. “From my point of view, the question is not whether Dr. Cody is being dragged, but whether the county administration is fast enough to bring us to a place where shelter on site can be lifted. ”

Testing in Santa Clara County is lagging behind the others, but it is aimed at more vulnerable areas and the six new test sites were added this week. And while Cody had set a “bold goal” of recruiting 700 people to track the contacts of people infected with the coronavirus, much less is needed now, she said. The 285 tracers the county has are recruited with just under 300 benchmarks set by the state.

Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks at a press conference in San Jose, Calif., On Friday, February. 28, 2020, in Santa Clara County, health officials confirmed a third case of new coronavirus. (Anda Chu / Archives Staff)

When Cody relaxed certain rules in early June, she said she would wait a few more weeks to monitor their impact. If the numbers do not spike, it will continue to reopen the process.

But do not expect life to return to normal soon.

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