In ERs and public meetings, Alaskans rage at health care workers trying to stem COVID spread

Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer for the State of Alaska. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Alaskans have been abusive to health care workers who dare to ask them about COVID-19 or discuss the disease in public, according to health officials.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, who also works in a hospital emergency department, said many retail pharmacists have stopped asking customers if they’d like the vaccine because of the fury it triggers.

“We see many triage nurses in the emergency department also afraid to ask that question,” Zink said, “because patients have been violent towards them in the emergency department when asking the question if they’re vaccinated or if they have COVID-19.”

Health care workers have also been spat on for speaking about the pandemic at public meetings, Zink told reporters during a weekly Zoom session, and they’ve received threatening letters. She likened it to the way America’s veterans were treated when they returned from fighting the Vietnam War.

“They are finding that they’re coming home to be disliked because of policy and because of politics and because of partisanship,” she said, “not for the job that they’ve come to do.”

Public health nurse manager Sarah Hargrave said contract tracers have also been met with ugliness when they call.

“Really, you know, belligerent, disrespectful, very, very aggressive over the phone,” Hargrave said. “That’s been true the entire time for a small minority of folks that we talked to. But it has grown significantly in this surge.”

Angry people have also followed public health nurses out of community meetings to yell at them.

“There are a number of things going on that just aren’t true to the spirit of Alaskans,” said Hargrave.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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