Former county epidemiologist's departing words
“An epidemiologist investigates outbreaks of infectious disease,” says Dr. Randall Todd, former Washoe County Epidemiologist.
In these times of COVID-19, that's how Dr. Todd explains what experts in his line of work do. Although they investigate outbreaks of all disease, contagious or not.
In his 14 years of service here at the Washoe County Health District, Dr. Todd investigated, among other things, measles outbreaks, an up-tick in rabies cases, hanta virus, as well as the risk of Zika virus in our area.
He was often the “go to guy” when it came to explaining disease, prevention of disease through vaccination, and awareness.
He says seven years ago, County Health Officer Kevin Dick began to suggest Dr. Todd retire.
"I just kept my head down, and did what I could do,” says Dr. Todd of his response.
Approximately two months ago, Dr. Todd was the health district's expert the media turned to and explained what we knew then about COVID-19.
“We didn't have a lot to recommend,” says Dr. Todd. “Frequent and thorough hand washing was important. We knew staying home when you were sick was also important,” he says.
Soon after he says, he was iced out from any discussions about COVID-19 in Washoe County--from testing, to tracking, to medical response.
It was a move he didn't understand, and yet didn't question either.
“Why didn’t I ask? I wasn't convinced I would get a valid answer,” he says.
Published reports indicated county health officer Kevin Dick asked Dr. Todd to resign weeks before his retirement date of May 8th.
That didn't happen.
And according to Dr. Todd with extra time accrued, he left last Thursday afternoon.
In what the county health officer says was his last statement on the issue, Kevin Dick said:
"I appreciate everything Dr. Todd has done over the last 14 years with the Washoe County Health District. It's unfortunate that he fails to recognize the expertise of the epidemiology staff."
To that Dr. Todd vehemently disagrees.
“I certainly appreciate the staff in there. I hired all of them. I have fired one or two of them over the years. But no, they are great,” says Dr. Todd of his former colleagues.
Locating an epidemiologist with a doctoral degree will not be an easy task, especially in these times of COVID-19.
Dr. Todd wishes his colleagues well. And hopes to collect what he calls, a retirement memento in front of the county board of health sometime in the future.
What is next for Dr. Todd?
He says he'd like to travel when that is possible.