Former Ohio health director Amy Acton to be honored for COVID-19 leadership

Acton stepped down from her role after threats over her pandemic response.

May 5, 2021, 6:54 PM

Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio's former health director who was the target of threats, will be honored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for her service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acton, who became a lauded national figure for her response to the pandemic but resigned in June following threats and challenges to her authority, is one of seven people who will receive the foundation's Profile in Courage Award, it announced Tuesday.

The recipients for the annual public servant award were chosen from among thousands of nominees across the country, the foundation said. They "put their own lives at risk to keep others safe," Caroline Kennedy, honorary president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, said in a statement.

The foundation said Acton "boldly proposed an aggressive shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19" early on in the pandemic.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton gives an update on the state's preparedness and education efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, in Cleveland, Feb. 27, 2020.
Tony Dejak/AP, FILE

"Her leadership put Ohio ahead of most other states in responding to the virus, but she became the target of protesters and legislators, who sought to limit her power and even engaged in personal attacks against her," the foundation said.

After resigning as the state's top health leader, Acton stayed in Gov. Mike DeWine's administration as a chief health adviser before joining the Columbus Foundation. She left the organization in February and is considering a bid to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate in 2022, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Acton was one of several public health officials who became targets amid the deeply political and divided response to the pandemic.

In addition to Acton, the other Profile in Courage Award honorees include Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who also faced pushback for her COVID-19 restrictions and was the alleged target of a foiled kidnapping plot.

Other recipients include Burnell Cotlon, owner of Burnell’s Market in Louisiana; Fred Freeman, a Massachusetts fire department captain; Antonio Greene, an Amazon associate in South Carolina; Lauren Leander, an intensive care unit nurse in Arizona; and Darrell R. Marks, the Native American academic adviser for Flagstaff High School in Arizona.

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is also being honored for his "historic" vote as the only Republican to vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial in 2020, the foundation said.

They will be awarded during a virtual ceremony airing on May 26 at 6 p.m. ET.

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