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Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis Navigates A Public Health Crisis

Kendyl Kearly | October 27, 2020 | People

Marin County’s health officer faces unprecedented challenges.


What have you been doing as public health officer? Mainly, I’m working to protect people through sensible policies and clear messaging. It’s a lot about understanding the science and translating it, so people see what’s behind the policy decisions that are being made and have the tools to navigate choices they’re facing. We’re all balancing risks, and the science is evolving. I also work to make sure we have the raw resources we need to tackle this—testing capacity, contact tracers, income supports, housing for isolation. Demand for these things increases as case counts rise, and given that there’s no real national plan, this happens mostly at the local level.

What do you hope society learns from this? That’s a key question we should all start focusing on, even as we tackle the immediate crisis. I hope we can use this experience to reset, and that we don’t get stuck in just returning to how things were. Infectious diseases teach us that we’re all connected and how we all suffer if one community is neglected. When we pull on one thread, we see how it’s all one fabric that could unravel.

What does the world need more of now? Respect for science. When we’re facing existential threats, we need to lean into the talents that allowed us to survive this long. As humans our superpower is our brains, and the way we work together in communities to fight off threats. With pandemics and climate change, our ability to use science and work in solidarity will get us through again. It’s up to us.

Photography by: Portrait by Urloved Photography; mask photo by Marek Studzinski/unsplash