Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Fall 2023

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Political Science

Program or Major

Political Science, Biomedical Sciences: Medical Microbiology

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Tama Andrews


In the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, while the public disagrees over mask mandates, required vaccinations, and social distancing, it seems like one common sentiment exists – a distaste for the odd bedfellows of politics and public health. There are those who cry for the compartmentalization of the science of public health and the art of politics to rectify this situation. In the wake of so much confusion and chaos, it is not unjustified to demand the depoliticization of public health; however, this response is unrealistic given the modern political climate, demonstrates a narrow understanding of the complexities of both the American public health sector and the federal system of government, and is at large a disservice to the American people. While it may be an uncomfortable reality to face, public health is a political issue. The tides of politics at all levels of federalism have long been influencing the ability of public health agencies to address public health concerns. The muddy relationship between public health professionals and politicians is not unique to the COVID-19 response, but a reality that permeates American history. Here, we reflect on how the political nuances of American society during the influenza A virus (H1N1) and COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic influenced public health response, how the inability of the public health sector to play the game of politics hindered its ability to achieve its objectives, and how the hesitancy of politicians to provide a seat at the table for public health scientists augmented already dire situations. Public health experts and politicians alike must reconcile the persisting relationship between both fields of expertise and make strides toward realistic collaborative efforts within the confines of the highly partisan, highly publicized modern American federalism culture.


Sincerest gratitude to Professor Tama Andrews of the Department of Political Science for her guidance and mentorship throughout this thesis project.