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Humboldt’s Frankovich Among Health Officials To Resign During Pandemic

Humboldt County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich announced she'll leave her position with the county when a replacement is found.
Humboldt County
Humboldt County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich announced she'll leave her position with the county when a replacement is found.

Humboldt County’s top public health official announced her resignation on Wednesday. Dr. Teresa Frankovich said she plans to leave her job as the county’s health officer during a moment of calm in the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Frankovich’s departure is the latest case of dozens of health officials around the country leaving their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic started. Those decisions have been attributed to a variety of reasons: the pressure of managing community responses to local COVID-19 outbreaks, burnout, and even harassment.

The Humboldt community would benefit from a more unified approach to the pandemic, Frankovich says, but public criticism did not motivate her choice to leave.

“I think the hardest thing for me in response has simply been the way that politics have intruded into science and trying to navigate that using the best information we have to move our community forward through this, but having to do so in an era that has become rather divisive,” she says.

Frankovich, a pediatrician, took her job as health officer last January in what was meant to be a part-time position, but which has since grown to more than full-time during the pandemic. She says her role is taking away important time from her family.

“I’m 60, my husband’s 70. I have an aging parent and there are things I need to do that really are difficult to do when you’re working more than full-time in a position like responding to COVID,” she says.

Frankovich says she will stay in her job until the county finds a replacement. She says she chose to announce her departure because the county is currently in a stable position in the pandemic.

Last week Humboldt County was approved to reopen more businesses when moving into California’s newest framework for reopening. The county has relatively low numbers of new daily COVID-19 infections and a low percentage of positive test results.

Still, many believe the fall and winter months could bring a spike in coronavirus cases as people start spending more time indoors and flu season strains hospital resources.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.