Local public health workers report hostile threats, fears about contact tracing
Contract tracers are encountering resistance, online harassment and even violent threats for conducting their work in some communities, a worrying trend as states reopen
By Will Stone
During her 17 years running Okanogan County's small public health department in eastern Washington, Lauri Jones rarely encountered any controversy. "Usually, we kind of sit here under the radar," says Jones, whose department before the pandemic was mostly known for mundane duties such as recording births, issuing permits for septic tanks, and investigating reports of food poisoning.
But that all changed when the coronavirus pandemic began in March. Jones and her staff are now highly visible members of the government in Okanogan County, as they help steer the local response to the outbreak. She's had to tell local businesses to stay closed, track down residents who could be infected and tell people to isolate or quarantine themselves.
And she has noticed wariness, suspicion, and even outrage creep into the conversations about her work, among some members of her community.