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Colorado’s public health officials are under attack as they respond to coronavirus

Across the state, public health departments are facing a barrage of vitriol as they respond to the pandemic. Some officials have up and quit under the pressure, while others who stay say they fear for their safety.

Jesse Paul
The Colorado Sun
Garfield County Public Health building in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Joni Reynolds, the head of Gunnison County’s public health department, entered kind of a routine as the coronavirus crisis descended on Colorado earlier this year: Long hours. Sleepless nights. A police escort home.

A wave of threats over her efforts to keep her community safe amid the pandemic made her fear for her safety. There were also suspicious packages left outside her house and sent to her office, both of which were unsettling but weren’t dangerous.

“References to Nazism. Calling me Mrs. Hitler,” Reynolds said, recounting the contents of the hate mail she received. “Calling me vile names — curse words. Threatening harm to me, my family, my home. Assuring they would remove me from my job and take ‘all my worldly possessions.’”

Public health officials in every corner of Colorado have become the target of threats, vandalism and even attack ads in newspapers and on the radio as a result of their handling of the pandemic. 

Some have faced blowback from their bosses — often county commissioners — and have been forced out of their jobs. Others have resigned because the stress and pressure just aren’t worth it. 

With no end to the pandemic in sight, officials worry whether Colorado’s network of local public health departments can tamp down the vitriol while trying to keep on top of the worst pandemic the world has experienced in 100 years. At some point, they fear, the combined pressure could become too heavy.

Read the full story via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.


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