In the News
Anti-Mask Protesters Target State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn
Communicable Disease Prevention
Utahns opposed to the Utah Department of Health’s mask requirements are turning their scorn from Gov. Gary Herbert to a new target this week — state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.
Two weeks ago state officials said masks would be required for any gathering in counties with high transmission rates. That set off a firestorm of criticism among those who are opposed to masks in any setting, and plans for a Wednesday night protest at Dunn’s Salt Lake home were shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
The post, which say the protests are organized by a group calling itself “People’s Right,” listed two protests — one Thursday morning and another Thursday afternoon outside Dunn’s Salt Lake home. Thursday morning, only about 10 protesters showed up in the neighborhood carrying flags and signs.
As protesters organized in the parking lot of a nearby church in the Avenues, Dunn was at a press conference with Herbert and local hospital administrators.
Dunn offered the daily COVID-19 numbers, which included a record-high positive rate of 18.1% and 10 new deaths, social media was buzzing about what supporters might do if protesters show up Thursday night.
“I have been made aware that there were protesters at my house this morning,” Dunn said when asked about it at the press conference, “and it’s scary and wrong that somebody would feel comfortable sharing my personal information.”
She continued, “It’s taken a really big toll on my family and myself, and they’re supposed to be there again tonight. I think it’s really unfortunate that we live in a state where people feel that it’s OK to harass civil servants. It’s wrong.”
“No civil servant should have to come home to protests,” Herbert said on Twitter. “I’m deeply disturbed that this has been Dr. Dunn’s reality this week. These protests are disgraceful and the organizers behind them should cancel all planned protests immediately. It’s one thing to protest an elected official like myself, but it is completely out of bounds to protest at a state employee’s home.
“Law enforcement has been working for weeks, and as recently as today, to ensure the safety of our public health officials. They will continue monitoring concerning activities, and we will deploy all necessary resources to protect our public health experts from bad actors, harm and harassment. Dr. Dunn has been and continues to be a critical leader in Utah’s pandemic response. We are fortunate to have her, and I am deeply grateful for her service,” the governor said.
Early Thursday, Dunn retweeted something she shared on June 23, 2020, when the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci was facing death threats for his work in offering public health advice as part of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force. The tweet she again shared was from the Public Health Institute. It said: “Instead of bulletproof vests and security details, our local public health officials deserve the protection of those who appointed them, and of those they serve.”
The article from the Public Health Institute, “When the truth becomes the threat: Standing in Support of our Public Health Officials,” shared how public health officials have endured public criticism and personal threats since the birth of epidemiology and public health. That story included a range of scientists and doctors from John Snow, who convinced skeptical public officials to remove a handle from a communal water pump and ended one of the worst cholera outbreaks London had endured, to the public health workers on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, who were forced to wear bulletproof vests just to go to work in labs across the country.
Dunn became something of a local celebrity for her easy-to-understand and no nonsense press briefings in the early months of the pandemic. Dunn became the most trusted voice on pandemic realities and possible precautions in Utah, just as Fauci became one of the most trusted voices nationally.
Click below to read the full story in the Deseret News.
Originally published by Deseret News
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