Counties, Health Officers Urge Protections for Health Workers

On January 25, 2022, MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson joined health officers and other stakeholders, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 267 – Criminal Law – Threat Against Public Health Official or Hospital Staff Member. This bill, sponsored by Delegate Karen Lewis Young, prohibits a person from making or sending a threat to a public health official with the intent to intimidate, interfere with, or impede a public health official from performing the official’s duties; and providing that a person who violated the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to imprisonment of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $500, or both.

Maryland Matters, an Annapolis-focused online news source, covered the hearing extensively:

Washington County Health Officer Earl E. Stoner told lawmakers Tuesday that threats over his public health decisions led him to install a security system at his home — and said his child was harassed at school because of his role as health officer.

“The level of harassment and intimidation from some, obviously not all, but some members of the public during this pandemic has really been unprecedented,” Stoner told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Read the full coverage on Maryland Matters, “Lawmakers Consider Bill to Ban Threats Against Health Officials, Hospital Workers.”

At the hearing, Mr. Sanderson emphasized the importance of the issue, highlighting “Protecting Public Officials” as one of MACo’s top legislative initiatives for the 2022 session. He framed the bill as sending an important message to Maryland’s health workers: “we’ve got your back.”

The video of the full public hearing is available on the Maryland General Assembly website.

From the MACo testimony

In late 2021, The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) pressed the
federal government to intervene and protect local public health officials from threats of violence. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these officials have been subject to heightened pressures and scrutiny for actions taken to save lives. The resulting impact has been devastating.

NACCHO reports more than 300 public health department leaders have left their posts throughout the pandemic. In Maryland, two prominent health officers resigned during this same period. MACo’s affiliate, the Maryland Association of County Health Officers, reports threats and harassment to its members have increased in volume and intensity in response to decisions made to protect the public from the COVID-19 virus.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2022 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.Learn more about MACo’s 2022 Legislative Initiatives.Read more General Assembly News on MACo’s Conduit Street blog.