Officials in Maryland’s Prince George’s County say they “will spare no time or expense” investigating the circumstances surrounding the dying 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 narrative 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 mentioned was amongst at the very least 20 division staff contaminated by the coronavirus. The outbreak underscores the stark risks going through the nation’s front-line public well being military, the topic of an ongoing collection by KHN and the AP, “Underfunded and Under Threat.”
Mack’s co-worker Rhonda Wallace, chief of an area department of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, mentioned she and others from the union met with two county council members shortly after the tales ran, then was advised in regards to the investigation after a separate assembly amongst county council members and officers.
“Your article started everything,” Wallace mentioned 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 mentioned. “I want to know what happened.”
She mentioned the county would “spare no time or expense” discovering out what led to Mack’s sickness and dying and “if there are things we should adjust, we absolutely will do it.”
Mack, who labored within the sexually transmitted illnesses 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 inside union doc obtained by KHN detailed a convention name by division managers during which Diane Young, an affiliate director, mentioned all household well being providers employees had 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 accordance with union paperwork.
Roland Mack holds a poster with footage and messages made by relations 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.(AP Photo/Federica Narancio)
Some staff advised 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 recognized 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 electronic 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 mentioned.
“What we knew in March is very different than what we know today,” she mentioned. “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 mentioned 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 3.
“What we did was follow principles of public health,” Carter mentioned on the information convention. “We did everything — everything we were supposed to do during that period.”
Wallace, the union chief, mentioned most rank-and-file staff now are allowed to telework, and one other union chief mentioned 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 instances and 720 deaths. COVID-19 has additionally stricken public well being employees combating the pandemic in states corresponding to Ohio, Georgia, Oregon and California — killing a employee at an area mosquito-control district in California.
Mack’s brother mentioned he hopes his late sister’s colleagues, and different front-line employees, heed an vital lesson: “Ain’t no job worth your life.”