The response to the COVID-19 outbreak has shown public health at its best, with state and local agencies taking all possible measures to keep their communities safe, informed, and healthy. Many agencies have all hands on deck, working around the clock to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and help people who have been affected.

It’s tough work made all the more difficult by declining public health funding and staffing over the past decade. The COVID-19 outbreak is just one example of why sustainable funding is needed for public health every day — not just when emergencies arise.

Recent news media coverage and commentaries have highlighted the excellent work that public health is doing to address the COVID-19 outbreak, constrained by limited funding and a shrinking workforce. Follow along here to read the latest about how state and local public health professionals are handling the COVID-19 crisis amid financial and workforce challenges.

The U.S. Approach to Public Health: Neglect, Panic, Repeat,” The New York Times, April 9, 2020

“We ignore the public health sector unless there’s a major catastrophe. Then we throw a pile of money at the problem. Then we rescind that money as soon as the crisis abates.”—Scott Becker, CEO,  Association of Public Health Laboratories

Delays and Shortages Exacerbate Coronavirus Testing Gaps in the U.S.,” The New York Times, April 6, 2020

“Many local communities are flying blind, making decisions in the absence of full information largely due to the failure of the federal government to provide sufficient testing capacity. This testing shortage, and lack of available information about the actual burden of the virus, has set our country’s response back by an order of magnitude we will never know.”—Chrissie Juliano, Executive Director, Big Cities Health Coalition

In Years Before Outbreak, Investment in Public Health Fell,” Associated Press News, April 5, 2020

“We waited until the house was on fire before we started interviewing firefighters.”—Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation

Testing is Just the Beginning in the Battle Against Covid-19,” The New York Times, March 30, 2020

“It’s an understatement to say that state and local public health agencies lack sufficient staffing and resources for the scale of the public health response needed. China’s response reportedly involved 18,000 people in Wuhan alone tracking down contacts of those who were infected. Unfortunately, public health agencies in the United States have lost 30,000 employees over the last seven years.” —Joshua M. Sharfstein, Professor of the Practice in Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Former Commissioner of Health, Baltimore City; and Melissa A. Marx, Assistant Professor in International Health and Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

‘There Is No Surge Plan’: Despite Warnings, Congress Failed to Fully Fund Pandemics Bill,” Politico, March 28, 2020

“We have a tendency to do this. When something happens, we throw a lot of money at it, but then we walk away. If we did that with the military, we’d be in terrible shape. But, somehow, we are fine doing that with public health.” —Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

Meet the Doctor Who Ordered the Bay Area’s Coronavirus Lockdown, the First in the U.S.,” The Mercury News, March 29, 2020

“I recognize that this is unprecedented. But we must come together to do this and we know we need a regional response. … We must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.” —Sara Cody, Public Health Officer, Santa Clara County

Is America Ready for a Second Wave of Coronavirus?Route Fifty, March 26, 2020

“This is where H1N1 and Ebola never got to. This is a real moment of introspection for the country. We’re very much focused on what’s happening now, about the pebble hitting the water. It’s time to start thinking about the ripples.” —Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation

State Governors Taking Lead on Coronavirus Precautions as Federal Government Works to Define Plan,” ABC News, March 19, 2020

“Part of the reason the states and local governors have taken action is because of the recommendations from the federal government have changed rapidly. They are doing the best job they can, and I think we will see the action they are taking will lead to rapid decreases in the number of cases.” —John Auerbach, President and CEO, Trust for America’s Health

Coronavirus Responders Deserve Better,” Health Affairs, March 19, 2020

“Prominent leaders are already calling for consistent funding for local and state health departments, but will it happen? Similar calls came during the H1N1, Zika, and Ebola outbreaks. But as the number of cases decline, Americans slowly slide back into complacency, media attention ebbs, and the interest and political will to strengthen our public health system dissipates.”  —Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation, and Monica Valdes Lupi, Senior Fellow, de Beaumont Foundation, and Former Executive Director, Boston Public Health Commission

Want to Make the Nation More Prepared to Fight Contagious Diseases? Expand Paid Sick Leave,” Health Affairs, March 17, 2020

“If we genuinely want to ensure the safety of our nation and increase the likelihood that we can successfully control the outbreak of a known or emerging contagious disease, we need a mandatory national standard for paid sick leave.” —Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation, and John Auerbach, President and CEO, Trust for America’s Health

State and Local Officials Shut Down Bars, Restaurants, Gyms, and Theaters,” Route Fifty, March 16, 2020

“People making these rules have paid sick leave and money in the bank. If you shut the restaurants down, then you have to be ready to answer the critical question: How are these workers going to live? If you close restaurants, you need to stop evictions and take other emergency measures. Otherwise you’re putting everyone in more danger.” —Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation

“Our staffing level is much less now than what it was previously. People are wearing several different hats and sharing job responsibilities for things that they were not doing before, so we’re already operating at peak efficiency and we have no capacity when something like this happens.” —A. Scott Lockard, Director, Kentucky River District Health Department

U.S. Communities Are Braced for Coronavirus Outbreaks. Seattle Is Already in the Thick of It,” STAT, March 10, 2020

Health officials’ “risk communication has been clear and transparent and shared on multiple media and in multiple languages.” But […] funding is undoubtedly an issue. “They will need dollars, like those passed by the Congress … to backfill expenses that they’ve undertaken in the response to date.” —Chrissie Juliano, Executive Director, Big Cities Health Coalition

Health Agencies’ Funding Cuts Challenge Coronavirus Response,” The Washington Post, March 8, 2020

“One-time, emergency money is great, but it’s not how you hire the right people or get the right supplies for future crises. A forest fire is not the right time to start hiring firemen and buying firetrucks and equipment. It’s too late.” —John Auerbach, President and CEO, Trust for America’s Health

Coronavirus Quarantines Pose Tough Issues for State and Local Officials,” Route Fifty, March 6, 2020

“I think what we’re seeing unearthed right now are all the challenges that come along with a quarantine. How do I get food? How do I go to work? If you do the right thing and self-quarantine, your landlord could still toss you at the end of the month when you don’t have enough money to make rent.” —Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation

COVID-19 Crisis Shows Cracks in Underfunded Public Health,” The Seattle Times, March 6, 2020

“State and local health departments should be a primary focus of funding support during this outbreak — but ongoing, increased funding of foundational public-health capabilities and programs means that they’ll be there for us when the next problem arises … or, in some situations, doesn’t arise, because they prevented it. —Betty Bekemeier, Director, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the UW School of Public Health, and Professor, University of Washington School of Nursing

Washington State’s Public Health System was Short on Money — Even Before Coronavirus Arrived in Seattle,” The Seattle Times, March 5, 2020

“We aren’t fully able to address the capacity need for this outbreak without proper funding.” —Tesia Forbes, Policy and Finance Administrator for Public Health, Seattle & King County

Former City Health Commissioner: Give Local Officials the Tools to Fight the Virus,”, March 5, 2020

“America’s public health workforce is among the best in the world. But to me, reflecting on what it might be like leading a city’s response to this coronavirus outbreak, one thing is clear: Without the resources they need to do their work while operating under a culture that puts politics ahead of science, their job is much harder. And we are that much less safe for it.” —Abdul El-Sayed, Former Executive Director and Health Officer, Detroit Health Department

“This is Not Sustainable’: Public Health Departments, Decimated by Funding Cuts, Scramble Against Coronavirus,USA Today, March 2, 2020

“While we are waiting, people are getting sick and the response doesn’t wait. We don’t have the luxury, working in public health, to wait for money to come.” —Brian Castrucci, President and CEO, de Beaumont Foundation

“Be Prepared but Don’t Panic: Health Departments Respond to Coronavirus,” Governing, March 2, 2020

“The federal government needs to step in and support this on-the-ground effort with money. The public health system is going to respond, but they’re going to need to backfill dollars that are spent.”—Chrissie Juliano, Executive Director, Big Cities Health Coalition

“‘All Hands on Deck’: Health Workers Race to Track Thousands of Americans Amid Coronavirus,” The New York Times, Feb. 22, 2020

“All hands on deck are being pulled into this. If it really blows up, at some point, it could overwhelm state and local health departments.” —Marcus Plescia, Chief Medical Officer, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

“We Shouldn’t Wait for a Crisis like Coronavirus to Fund Public Health,” Route Fifty, Feb. 11, 2020

“To successfully tackle today’s greatest public health challenges, a workforce of sufficient size and with the appropriate skill sets is needed. This requires allocating adequate funding — not just to react to today’s emergency, but to help prevent and address the emergencies of tomorrow.” —Rivka Liss-Levinson, Director of Research, Center for State and Local Government Excellence

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