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San Diego doctors slam Supervisors for not defending public health officer

Virus Outbreak California Daily Life
Posted at 3:22 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 20:39:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A group of local doctors slammed San Diego's Board of Supervisors for not denouncing reported intimidation of the county's public health officer.

The San Diego County Medical Society issued a statement, saying they are, "extremely disappointed by the failure of the Members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to stand up against the personal abuse, attempted intimidation and doxing of our County Public Health Officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten."

SDCMS pointed specifically to public testimony at the BOS' hearing on Tuesday, during which a caller revealed Wooten's address. Some residents have called into the meetings recently to demand the county lift business and activity restrictions and the facial covering mandate under the public health order.

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"There was no evidence that any of you attempted to defend Dr. Wooten, criticize this outrageous and inappropriate conduct, or express any personal sympathy to our County’s Public Health Officer for suffering this type of abuse for simply doing her job," SDCMS' statement read, in part. "This was a jarring failure of leadership, basic civility and simple human decency by those who are elected to serve the people of our County."

Dr. Holly Yang, president of SDCMS, spoke with 10News Thursday saying, "We feel strongly that the board of supervisors should condemn this behavior and stop this behavior to protect our public health officers, especially here in San Diego County, Dr. Wooten."

"Stand up for Dr. Wooten and make sure she is not subject to this behavior and immediately cut it off, say that it’s unacceptable, and protect her," said Yang.

Thursday, BOS Chairman Greg Cox, and Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Kristin Gaspar and Jim Desmond issued statements or spoke with 10News in support of Wooten:

"I support Dr. Wooten and think she’s done an outstanding job during trying circumstances. The incident that occurred during the Board of Supervisors meeting was unfortunate and I condemn it. However, as a public agency, we cannot block speakers from using their First Amendment right to make comments at our meetings. Comments made at the Board meeting are live and the remarks made the other day happened too quickly for us to prevent them from going out over the air. However, we did redact the personal information in those comments from the archived video of the meeting. I have asked our Clerk of the Board staff to investigate measures we can take to prevent personal information from being aired live in the future. Dr. Wooten handled the incident like the professional she is. All of us at the County remain focused on fighting this pandemic and protecting the public’s health."
— Chairman Greg Cox
"I’ve got Dr. Wooten’s back. She has shown unmatched professionalism, care, and compassion as she guides us through an incredibly difficult public health crisis. Dr. Wooten is one of the hardest-working public servants that I’ve encountered in my time working in government and she has earned and deserves our respect. San Diegans should be proud she’s our County Public Health Officer."
— Supervisor Nathan Fletcher
I certainly empathize with Dr. Wooten. As an elected official, I too have been the victim of name-calling, inappropriate conduct during public comment, as well as people showing up at my private residence to harass my family. There is no excuse for personal attacks or sharing of personal information. It needs to stop immediately.
— Supervisor Kristen Gaspar
That comment was made, it was uncalled for, reprehensible, and it shouldn’t have been happened at all.

I apologize to the medical society if we didn’t do the right thing at the right time, this is all new to us and unfortunately it happened and shouldn’t happen again.

Dr. Wooten is doing a great job and she didn’t deserve any sort of attack against her.
— Supervisor Jim Desmond

In California, several public health officers have resigned since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing public threats and intimidation following their health orders. Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom denounced the reported instances of intimidation against public health officials in the state.