Otsego County adds security after threats to health department

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The Otsego County Board meeting was broadcast live via Facebook. (Otsego County Board of Representatives)

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — The health department in Otsego County has been receiving threats related to the new statewide mask mandates.

The threats came up in a meeting of the Otsego County Board of Representatives this Wednesday and were first reported by the Oneonta Daily Star.

Some board members received an email from Otsego County Health Director Heidi Bond detailing the threats. People have been showing up to the building that houses the health department and threatening workers there. Workers have also received threatening emails, board members said.

Jill Basile, a Democrat, represents parts of Oneonta. She said she wants people to know that the health department is just doing its job, and the threats make that job more difficult.

“What is happening is unfortunate and scary,” Basile said. “COVID is not political. These people are doing their job. And we need to come up with a way to keep them safe while they’re doing it.”

The board agreed to look into a plan to provide additional security at the building that houses the health department. Currently, visitors to the building must pass through a metal detector and a security guard.

“From a purely financial aspect, having to suddenly revamp the entire security because it has been decided that this is how we’re going to protest something we don’t like, is costing the county money,” Basile said.

On Thursday, the county hired another security guard and plans to build a wall between the health department and another part of the building that is more accessible to the public.

The county board also discussed the governor’s new mask mandate and whether or not they would enforce it. Other New York counties have stated they would not or could not enforce the mandate.

Basile said that Otsego County’s health department likely does not have the resources to strictly enforce the mandate regardless of what the board decides.

The board did not reach a clear consensus on the matter, though Board Chair David Bliss, a Republican who represents Cherry Valley and several other towns, said that he encourages everyone to comply with the new mask mandate.