Mandel: Sorry, Seattle, your public health threat level just inched up
I’m leaving Seattle for Atlanta, and it may be bad for your health.
I know, I know — you’re devastated. I’m sure there will be plenty of teary comments like, “who the **** is that?” Valid. But, there is a reason this actually matters to you.
Because my wife is also leaving.
I moved here because of my then-girlfriend turned-wife’s job with the Centers for Disease Control, through the United States Public Health Service. She silently tracks infectious disease outbreaks around the world and ensures they don’t spread around the Pacific Northwest. The CDC is headquartered in Atlanta, and my wife felt lucky to be stationed among only a handful of other CDCers in Washington state. But, in my mind, the CDC, and the people of the region, were even luckier to have her.
Now that she is leaving, her job will not be replaced. Heck, even at the current funding levels the spot would likely have folded. We’ve chosen as a nation to place our budgetary priorities elsewhere.
This isn’t to say my wife is some superhero in public health (though she is), but her already stretched-thin team will stretch even further to try and fill the gaps. And when there is an infectious disease outbreak, this is one place you don’t want gaps.
I won’t dive into politics here. Instead, you should read this op-ed from the New York Times by noted epidemiologist Michael T. Osterholm. Bill Gates retweeted the story, too. No matter what your political persuasion, we cannot overlook the importance of defending against disease, and major budget cuts matter. As my wife says: “Infectious disease only makes the news when we ‘fail’ at our job because we are overwhelmed and underfunded.”
Seattle is a health hub, with a strong public health department and renowned nonprofit institutions like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Path, and Fred Hutch, among others. But they will be the first to tell you that their work alone will not suffice.
Luckily, I know my wife and she will always be keeping an eye out on her adopted hometown. Me? I’ll just be the **** rooting for Aaron Rodgers in Week 1, y’all.