In 2020, Mobile County health officer Dr. Bernard Eichold is on the frontlines of COVID and 2 hurricanes

This story is part of AL.com’s series “Alabamians who made a difference in 2020,” highlighting people who have made our state a better place to live this year. Stories in this series will publish each day from Dec. 11 to Dec. 31, 2020. Find all stories on the Alabamians who made a difference in 2020 by clicking here.

Back on March 18, when Mobile County had yet to confirm a COVID-19 case, Dr. Bernard Eichold issued an order to close restaurants and bars.

It was the first time in Eichold’s 30-year career as the county’s health officer in which he had to make such a sweeping ruling. Eichold’s authority came as a bit of a surprise to public officials in Mobile who were unaware of Alabama law that allowed the health officers in Jefferson and Mobile counties to enact wide-ranging orders for their respective counties.

“Early in the pandemic, some unilateral decisions had to be made in the best interest of public health and the safety of the citizens,” said Eichold, referring to the initial health order at the onset of the pandemic that occurred one day before Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris made a similar call that affected businesses statewide.

“Many people did not understand nor appreciate the gravity of the situation or the long-term consequences but I’m very proud of the citizens for their dynamic response to a crisis,” he added.

Eichold has since been at the forefront on decisions regarding mask wearing and Mardi Gras parades. He’s also had to lead the county’s health department’s response through two hurricanes – Sally in September and Zeta in October.

Eichold is a retired Navy captain whose background includes a diverse background in medicine. He was named Tulane University’s Alumni of the Year for the School of Public Health and Tropical medicine in 2018.

Eichold, 70, will become the longest serving health officer in Mobile County next year.

“This is a challenge for the community but I feel lucky to feel as if I have the tools in the toolbox to help make good decisions and work with experience people in Mobile County,” Eichold said.

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