The Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials says 80% of public health workers in Colorado report being threatened in the last year, and 19 public health directors have resigned or are planning to resign.
Public health workers told Colorado state lawmakers they’re being threatened and harassed by people angry about COVID-19 restrictions, and they need protection. One worker says her dogs were poisoned while others say their cars have been vandalized.
San Juan Basin Public Health Director Lianne Jollon says protestors even showed up at her home.
“The first time the crowd showed up, they had signs, flags, bullhorns. It was insanely jarring. I’m now shaken to the core every time there’s a slow driver by my front door.”
Tri-County Public Health Director John Douglas hired armed security after, he says, their buildings were repeatedly vandalized, and they received bomb threats and emails accusing them of tyranny.
“An online posting in late December called for the following: if you work for the state, CDPHE, Tri-County or other agencies, you are on the radar at your homes and elsewhere.”
Representatives Yadira Caraveo and Terri Carver introduced a bill aimed at protecting the workers by protecting their personal information.
“What we need to do is prevent personal information from being used against these public health officials,” said Caraveo.
The bill would allow public health workers to scrub personal information, like addresses and phone numbers, from the internet and make it a Class 1 Misdemeanor for someone to post the information as a means of threatening a worker.
Carver said, “The principal here is something that is separate and apart from the agreement or disagreement on policy.”
She and Caraveo say public health workers shouldn’t have to fear for their life for doing their job, but right now, many like Jollon do.
“Who else has my personal address? What kind of damage is still to come?” asked Jollon.
If the bill becomes law – and it passed its first committee unanimously – public health workers would join law enforcement and human service workers in being able to protect their personal information.
A separate bill protects the information of Department of Corrections workers. It also passed committee unanimously.