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Threats Against Health Officer Cause Concern In Redding

Shasta County Board of Supervisors listens to public testimony against state health regulations in August.
Shasta County Board of Supervisors
Shasta County Board of Supervisors listens to public testimony against state health regulations in August.

Police in Redding have increased patrols around a public health officer’s house following threats made online and at public meetings.

Redding Police Chief Bill Schueller says people have been threatening Shasta County Public Health Officer and physician Karen Ramstrom.

“Her home address was shouted out at a board of supervisors meeting where somebody made mention of protesting in front of her house,” Schueller says. “There was a comment about making a citizens arrest on her for a federal violation that includes the death penalty.”

The health department notified Schueller of these and other threats reported by the Redding Record Searchlight. Schueller then informed his officers and asked them to drive past Ramstrom’s house when possible.

The threats came from local critics of California’s health policies intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They’ve been staging protests in the county since the start of the pandemic. One protest back in Augustgot so heated that a Sprouts grocery store closed its doors temporarily.

Critics of health policies also have been flooding Shasta County board meetings with complaints against face mask mandates, going so far as to accuse county supervisors of committing treason. They argue that the county shouldn’t enforce the state’s health mandates on crowd sizes, face masks requirements, reopening public schools to in-person learning, and other regulations.

Schueller says his department doesn’t make a point of enforcing those rules.

“That’s an executive order from the state of California and it should be enforced through the state,” Schueller says. “I’m happy to help the public health department when there’s an issue that requires our assistance — like if we had a business that had an outbreak, or we had another place where they were violating the executive order and we had a large outbreak for that location. In those scenarios, I’d be happy to look into that and enforce when necessary. But overall, we’re looking for voluntary compliance, and for the most part, that’s happening throughout our county.”

Shasta County had a spike of coronavirus cases in late September. If numbers continue to worsen, the county could face additional health mandates from the state, which could lead to more protests against them.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.