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Hollowed Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus

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Hollowed Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus

Jennifer Gottschalk, environmental health supervisor of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, walks down a hallway of the department’s offices in Toledo, Ohio, on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. When the coronavirus pandemic struck earlier in the year, the county’s department was so short-staffed that her duties included overseeing campground and pool inspections, rodent control and sewage programs, while also supervising outbreak preparedness for a community of more than 425,000 people. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) The Associated Press

The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources to confront the worst health crisis in a century.

Marshaled against a virus that has sickened at least 2.6 million in the U.S., killed more than 126,000 people and cost tens of millions of jobs and $3 trillion in federal rescue money, state and local government health workers on the ground are sometimes paid so little, they qualify for public aid.

They track the coronavirus on paper records shared via fax. Working seven-day weeks for months on end, they fear pay freezes, public backlash and even losing their jobs.

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Since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%, according to a KHN and Associated Press analysis of government spending on public health. At least 38,000 state and local public health jobs have disappeared since the 2008 recession, leaving a skeletal workforce for what was once viewed as one of the world’s top public health systems.

KHN, also known as Kaiser Health News, and AP interviewed more than 150 public health workers, policymakers and experts, analyzed spending records from hundreds of […]

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