Officials in Maryland’s Prince George’s County say they “will spare no time or expense” investigating the circumstances surrounding the loss of life of a veteran public well being employee who died of COVID-19 after kin and associates imagine she contracted the coronavirus on the job.
The probe follows a story by KHN and the Associated Press two weeks in the past specializing in the employee, Chantee Mack, a 44-year-old illness intervention specialist on the Prince George’s County Health Department who union officers stated was amongst at the very least 20 division staff contaminated by the coronavirus. The outbreak underscores the stark risks dealing with the nation’s front-line public health army, the topic of an ongoing sequence by KHN and the AP, “Underfunded and Under Threat.”
Mack’s co-worker Rhonda Wallace, chief of a neighborhood department of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, stated she and others from the union met with two county council members shortly after the tales ran, then was informed in regards to the investigation after a separate assembly amongst county council members and officers.
“Your article started everything,” Wallace stated in an interview this week.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter mentioned the necessity for a probe at a coronavirus information convention on July 30.
“Ms. Mack’s death hurt all of us. It is the worst-case scenario that we would lose one of our employees who was there courageously working to save lives. … We believe that it deserves an investigation,” Alsobrooks stated. “I want to know what happened.”
She stated the county would “spare no time or expense” discovering out what led to Mack’s sickness and loss of life and “if there are things we should adjust, we absolutely will do it.”
Mack, who labored within the sexually transmitted ailments program, confronted well being challenges and was twice denied permission to make money working from home in March, when the coronavirus was first appearing in Maryland. She was amongst 100 staffers deemed important throughout the pandemic out of the greater than 500 staff on the well being division.
An inner union doc obtained by KHN detailed a convention name by division managers wherein Diane Young, an affiliate director, stated all household well being providers employees have been important. Only these 65 or older, these with an “altered” immune system or with babies can be eligible to make money working from home, and selections can be made case by case.
Mack’s supervisors supported her requests to make money working from home, however the division’s higher administration rejected them, in keeping with union paperwork.
Roland Mack holds a poster with photos and messages made by members of the family in reminiscence of his sister, Chantee Mack, in District Heights, Maryland, in June. The Prince George’s County, Maryland, public well being employee died of COVID-19 after, household and associates imagine, she and several other colleagues contracted the illness of their workplace.
Some staff informed KHN that the division additionally didn’t present face masks and different protecting gear to staff who labored within the workplace and with the general public within the early days of the pandemic. They even held a employees assembly at which individuals sat shut collectively.
Mack was uncovered to a pregnant worker who later grew to become the primary in this system to be identified with COVID-19. Mack was examined for the coronavirus in early April, was hospitalized mid-month and stayed on a ventilator for 4 weeks. She died May 11.
Mack’s youthful brother, Roland Mack, wrote an e-mail to Alsobrooks’ workplace with the topic line “The health department killed my sister,” saying there are “better preventative measures that could have been taken.”
Another worker frolicked on a ventilator, suffered strokes and is studying to stroll once more.
“They failed us — the employees,” Wallace stated.
At the current information convention, Alsobrooks stated the nation has gained a better understanding of the virus since these early days.
“What we knew in March is very different than what we know today,” she stated. “The way that we were working in March is different than today because the pandemic occurred and we had never seen it before. So many of the rules that we have implemented, the policies that we have implemented, they have evolved since March.”
Even as Carter stated an investigation was underway, he defended the division’s actions, saying they adopted pointers on the time from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC had been encouraging social distancing by mid-March, however the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the CDC started recommending face coverings in public on April three.
“What we did was follow principles of public health,” Carter stated on the information convention. “We did everything — everything we were supposed to do during that period.”
Wallace, the union chief, stated most rank-and-file staff now are allowed to telework, and one other union chief stated work situations have improved.
All the whereas, the well being division is coping with Maryland’s largest COVID-19 caseload, with greater than 22,800 circumstances and 720 deaths. COVID-19 has additionally stricken public well being employees combating the pandemic in states akin to Ohio, Georgia, Oregon and California — killing a employee at a neighborhood mosquito-control district in California.
Mack’s brother stated he hopes his late sister’s colleagues, and different front-line employees, heed an vital lesson: “Ain’t no job worth your life.”
This story is a collaboration between KHN and the Associated Press.