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Calls For Change After Hopkins Study Finds Harassment Prevalent For Health Officials

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Over the last two years, we've heard about teachers and essential workers walking off the job due to burnout. But a new report from Johns Hopkins says a concerning number of public health workers are considering their career futures after facing harassment since the start of the pandemic.

"It's not acceptable," said Dr. Beth Resnick of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers at the school found that during the first year of the pandemic across Maryland and the U.S., there were nearly 1500 reports of harassment identified

The study found that 57% of local public health departments surveyed had been targets of harassment.

It shows that 222 public health officials left their positions during that time period.

Over one-third of the people who left their jobs (36%) said they experienced some form of harassment, according to the study.

Health officials say it's a wake-up call.

"Somebody out there is doing their job to protect their health of the public shouldn't need to feel threatened or undervalued for doing their job," said Dr. Resnick.

Last year, former Harford County Health officer Dr. David Bishai was fired from his position. He told WJZ he believes he was suddenly terminated after advocating for vaccines and mask-wearing.

"It wasn't just the political voices they were hearing that interfered with my ability to do the work I've committed to," he said. "They stopped the work I've committed to."

Now, Dr. Resnick is calling for change. She wants to see legal protection and a national reporting system.

"We need to figure out how, going forward, we can prevent this and protect the workers," she said.

The Baltimore County Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch told WJZ Thursday he supports a bill that would hold people legally accountable if they harass a public health official or someone in healthcare.

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