LANSING, Mich. (Dec. 8, 2021) — Today, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) introduced legislation to protect public health workers from rising threats of violence amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by increasing penalties for anyone who threatens to assault, or assaults, a public health official.
Earlier this year, the Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department was nearly run off the road hours after issuing a mask mandate for the school year.
“Throughout the worst pandemic in a century, Michigan’s public health officials have been working tirelessly to carry out their constitutional duty to protect the public,” Sen. Brinks said. “This brave work should be celebrated, not derided. However, like many public servants, their jobs have become increasingly difficult due to misinformation campaigns and threats of physical harm to them and their families.”
The legislation, Senate Bills 781 and 782 mirror an existing statute protecting Child Protective Services employees, where it is a misdemeanor to threaten physical harm, and felonies for an assault and an assault causing serious impairment.
“Unfortunately, recent reports indicate this problem is not limited just to Kent County, and that many public health officials have even gone so far as to resign because of the seriousness of threats associated with doing their job,” Sen. Brinks added. “I cannot stand to see another story detailing the fear these dedicated public servants must live through in order to do their jobs, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in saying ‘enough is enough.’”
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