Washington public health officers under stress from COVID-19 pandemic

Public health officials throughout the state have resigned or been fired in recent weeks as coronavirus case counts reach record highs.

Experts say many in the profession are facing mounting political pressure and exhaustion from dealing with the pandemic.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that vacancies for health officials are growing, with spots open in Yakima, Walla Walla, Spokane, Whatcom, Lewis, Mason, Chelan-Douglas and Okanogan counties.

Spokane County’Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz was fired in early November. Lutz released a statement saying he believes his termination was politically motivated in retaliation for unpopular COVID-19 decisions.

Meghan DeBolt, director of the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health, resigned in October.

RELATED: State COVID-19 transmission fastest since March, hospital surge ‘exponential’

Some officials are leaving for personal reasons, among them State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy, who plans to step down later this year. In her departure announcement, she said she wants to focus on being a mom, improve her health and reconnect with friends and family.

In the Tri-Cities, a change.org petition seeks to oust health officer Dr. Amy Person, who remains in office.

Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, said she’s been disheartened by the treatment of public health leaders throughout this crisis as they’ve sought to keep their communities safe.