Gail Newel and Mimi Hall talk to reporter Anna Maria Barry-Jester of Kaiser Health News about the threats of violence they faced during the pandemic. The episode is titled “What happens when your own community suddenly turns on you?’
High-profile Santa Cruz County health officials Gail Newel and Mimi Hall are the focus of a newly released segment on the popular public-radio program “This American Life,” which contained some revelations about the threats that both officials experienced from the public at the height of the pandemic.
As reported by Anna Maria Barry-Jester of Kaiser Health News, the segment featured Newel, the county’s health officer, saying that at one point she was told by the sheriff’s department that “he didn’t feel confident that he and his deputies would be able to protect me in public venues any longer.” The report also said that the sheriff (unnamed in the segment, but presumably Sheriff Jim Hart) suggested to both Newell and Hall that they get guns and enroll in firearm training.
As Santa Cruz County inches out of the pandemic, Lookout is chronicling the changes in our lives and the accomplishments of everyday people. “People in the Pandemic” is one of eight Lookout initiatives documenting all aspects of life amid COVID. For more, go to our COVID 2021 section, and sign up for COVID Text Alerts and our COVID PM newsletter here.
On Sunday night, KHN released Barry-Jester’s article off which the “This American Life” segment is based. Lookout has the full story here.
Hall, the County Health Service Agency’s director, also revealed that she got angry phone calls and sexist messages in the middle of the night, that she took high-blood-pressure medication for the first time in her life, and that she thought about retiring. “We talked about selling our home,” she told reporter Barry-Jester.
The story was told against the backdrop of the murder of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and Newel’s controversial withdrawal of the beach closure last summer.
Barry-Jester said in the piece that more than 250 public health officials across the U.S. have left their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.