The emails Joyce Warshaw received as mayor of Dodge City, Kan., Were quite hostile last month, as the city was simply considering serving a mask term.
But then the mandate was passed and USA Today ran an article last week about Dodge City’s struggles with the coronavirus – and hostility has just spilled over, Ms Warshaw said.
“We’re coming to get you,” read a message. “You will burn in hell,” said another. The word “murder” has been used several times, she said.
Fearing for the safety of her family and hers, Ms Warshaw, 69, stepped down as mayor on Tuesday, weeks before her one-year term ended.
“I can go beyond words,” Ms. Warshaw, a retired elementary school principal, said in an interview on Wednesday. “But I think right now our nation is experiencing so much division and so much inappropriate bullying that is being accepted, and that worries me. I don’t know if these people would act according to their words.
Ms Warshaw’s experience provides a vivid example of the challenges officials have faced amid the emotional and political battle over the virus. Local and state health service leaders have faced harassment, personal insults and death threats for their role in imposing viral restrictions. Political leaders have also been criticized.
Prosecutors have charged a man from Wichita, Kan., With threatening to kidnap and kill that town’s mayor over a mask ordinance. And the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., got a text who referred to him using a racial insult and suggested he should be lynched to require masks. Council members in Green Bay, Wisconsin said they had received threats about their mask warrants, and the principal of an Arizona school district resigned after being harassed over the decision to switch to virtual learning.
Ms Warshaw said she understood people might not agree, but was disheartened by the lack of courtesy. Even when she tried to explain things to critics, they fired her and told her she was lying, she says. She hopes her resignation might help some of the anger over the mask warrant the city adopted in response to Ford County’s decision to withdraw from the state’s mask order.
One in seven residents of that county has tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic, making it one of the hardest-hit counties in the country. Several of Ms Warshaw’s relatives, including her daughter, contracted the virus and her aunt has died of Covid-19, she said.
“If we could all have a little compassion for society as a whole instead of looking at our individual desires or beliefs,” said Ms Warshaw, “we could have curbed this pandemic sooner.