Health director: Gloucester mayor's office interfering with COVID-19 response  

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff file photo/Karin Carroll, Gloucester’s director of public health, in an email to the city's Board Health outlined six of areas of concern in the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting, she wrote, from interference by the Mayor's Office.

GLOUCESTER - The office of Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken has interfered with the city Health Department's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing incorrect information with the public and bypassing the department to personally arrange vaccine appointments for individuals, according to an email from Public Health Director Karin Carroll.

Giving certain people access to the vaccine ahead of others, Carroll indicated in her email, is "inconsistent with the department's commitment to health equity." It was not immediately clear who was benefitting from any appointments arranged through the mayor's office.

"Attempts have been made to address these concerns yet the involvement continues," Carroll wrote in her email to the Board of Health. "Therefore, I would like to ask the Board to review these concerns and intervene."

Carroll, Romeo Theken, and Chief Administrative Officer Nicole Kieser did not answer phone calls, text messages or emails from the Times requesting comment. 

Assistant to the CAO Christopher Sicuranza declined to comment. 

In the April 2 email, sent the morning after the Board of Health's monthly meeting and as the city saw an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases, Carroll briefly summarized six key areas of concern, saying the mayor's office was: 

Disseminating incorrect COVID-related information. 

"Actively assisting individuals to secure COVID-19 vaccine appointments outside the Health Department's involvement and inconsistent with the Department's commitment to health equity."

Tapping into COVID-related resources from the state without following chain of command and consulting Carroll or the Board of Health first.

Engaging in "unofficial COVID contact tracing" outside of the Health Department. 

Requesting COVID-19 "patient-level" information from various members of the department. 

"Contradicting the clinical advice" of the Health Department tracing team. 

"These actions, however well meaning, can adversely (affect) public health and should not continue," Carroll wrote.

Which members of the mayor's office these actions could be attributed to was not explained in the email. 

"These are issues that need to be addressed concerning how information is being disseminated," Board of Health Chairman Richard Sagall told the Times on Friday. He said the Board of Health has not discussed what addressing the concerns might look like. 

Carroll does not report to the mayor's office. Instead, she works under the Board of Health, as set under state law.

 "The Massachusetts law is set up this way intentionally," she wrote, "so the health and safety of communities can be fully protected without political interference." 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

 

 

 

 

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