The emails Joyce Warshaw received as Mayor of Dodge City, Kan., Were hostile enough last month when the city only considered getting a masked mandate.
But then the mandate passed and USA Today published an article last week on Dodge City's struggle with the coronavirus – and the hostility was just boiling over, Ms. Warshaw said.
"We'll pick you up," 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 her own, Ms. Warshaw, 69, resigned as mayor on Tuesday, a few weeks before the end of her year-long term.
"I can understand past words," Ms. Warshaw, a retired elementary school principal, said in an interview on Wednesday. “But I think right now our nation is seeing so much division and so much inappropriate bullying that is being accepted, and it only worried me. I don't know if these people would act on their words. "
Ms. Warshaw's experience is a good example of the challenges officials faced in the emotional and political battle over the virus. Local and state health officials have faced harassment, personal abuse and death threats for their role in introducing virus restrictions. Political leaders have also come under fire.
Prosecutors charged a man in Wichita, Kan., Threatening to kidnap and kill the city's mayor over a mask ordinance. And the Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, received a text message that referred to him with a racist bow and suggested He should be lynched because he needs masks. Councilors in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said they had received threats about their masked mandates, and the superintendent of an Arizona school district resigned on allegations that he was harassed over the decision to switch to virtual learning.
Ms. Warshaw said she understood that people might disagree, but she was disappointed with the lack of courtesy. Even if she tried to explain things to critics, they would fire her and tell her she was lying, she said. She hopes resigning could help Part of the anger over the mask mandate the city issued in response to Ford County's decision to reject the state mask ordinance.
One in seven residents of this county has tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began, 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 died of Covid-19, she said.
"If we could all have a little compassion for society as a whole instead of paying attention to our individual needs or beliefs," said Ms. Warshaw, "we could have contained this pandemic sooner."