Tuscarawas County health official speaks out amid increasing hate mail

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DOVER, Ohio (WJW) – As COVID-19 cases keep rising, a Northeast Ohio health commissioner says the amount of hate mail she receives is increasing as well. 

She said it has gotten so bad that she wrote a letter to the community to say she is simply following the law and trying to save lives.

Tuscarawas County Health Commissioner Katie Seward said as she offers guidance, attacks against her are growing increasingly personal. She said she is often labeled “the most hated woman in Tuscarawas County.”

“They’ve called names… Tyrant, Nazi, communist,” Seward said.

Seward said over the past month and a half, she has received the brunt of some people’s frustration over COVID-19. 

She said it got worse as the debate intensified over school quarantine guidelines and whether kids should wear masks in the classroom. 

Seward said it got so bad, she had to delete her personal social media page because people were circulating photos of her daughter and blaming her for causing child suicides.

“The idea that I was putting pressures on schools, which I wasn’t… I was just sharing the recommendations from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health… That they would continue to share those photos of my daughter, there have been references that make it evident that they know where I live,” she said.

On Friday, Seward published a lengthy letter to the community where she explains her respect for residents’ passion and ability to make their own choices. 

It stated, “I have legal, ethical and moral obligations to perform the duties assigned by the Board of Health under the State of Ohio’s Revised Code.” 

Seward continued, “I have always acted ethically and with the best interest of the Tuscarawas County community in mind.”

“If my letter gets out there and makes someone pause before they make an angry reply on social media to someone else who may feel differently about COVID than they do, then I feel like my letter has been a success,” said Seward.

Seward said public health officials statewide and across the nation are receiving a similar backlash.

“Why should I have to choose between the safety of my family and my career? And essentially that’s what it seemed as though the public, some of the public, was asking me to do,” she said.

Seward said she felt the need to speak out about the rhetoric, which she believes goes beyond what a public official should endure.

“This should have never been a red or a blue issue. It should have been us as the United States, as Ohio, as Tuscarawas County coming together to support one another… We have to hold ourselves to higher standards than this because I know we can do better,” said the commissioner.

Tuscarawas County currently has a “high” level of COVID-19  transmission with about 285 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the latest figures from the Ohio Department of Health.

As of Monday afternoon, the county reported 510 active cases, with just over 36 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

According to the Tuscarawas County Health Department’s Facebook page, the reaction to the commissioner’s letter has been overwhelmingly positive.

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