Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County Health Officer Receives Death Threats Over COVID-19 Closures

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Santa Cruz County's health officer said Friday she has received death threats over coronavirus-related closures.

"The most worrisome ones were threats to my life and the life of my family members, especially my children," Dr. Gail Newel said. "Those are the ones that bother me the most, of course."

Newel has faced threats ever since early in the pandemic when she decided to close beaches. Since then, she has received some unexpected advice from the sheriff's department.

"To get a guard dog, to purchase firearms, to be trained in firearm use," she said. "That’s the kind of advice I got and, of course, that heightened my concern."

The arrest of a man who threatened Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody has added to the overall tension, with at least six health officials resigning statewide since.

Newel said she is still considering getting a firearm, which she called appropriate advice, since she worries public anger will not fade away.

"I’m very concerned as we approach the November election that the political divide will widen," she said.

Newel did say she and other public health officials are determined not to let threats stop them from making decisions they feel are best for the public.

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