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'Simply put, it is my job': Tuscarawas County Health Commissioner writes letter to community after COVID-19 quarantine backlash

"I have been threatened and harassed, my character has been torn down. My personal life has been dissected, judged, and ridiculed."

DOVER, Ohio — Editor's Note: The above video is from a previously published, unrelated story

Tensions have been high all over Northeast Ohio as school districts have been deciding on how best to protect students and staff from the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. 

In Tuscarawas County, those tensions have become personal. 

Katie Seward is the Tuscarawas County Health Commissioner. In a letter written on the health department's Facebook page late last week, Seward disclosed some of the hardships she has faced as the pandemic rages on. 

"I have been threatened and harassed, my character has been torn down. My personal life has been dissected, judged, and ridiculed. I have been labeled 'the most hated woman in Tuscarawas County'," Seward wrote. 

She added that with the county's children returning to school, the heat has only been turned up more. "I have heard from many very passionate community members regarding differing stances on mask and vaccine mandates in schools," Seward noted. "I have been told to “do more” and pressured to “do less."

Seward says that her office has no authority over mask, vaccine and quarantine mandates and/or recommendations. However, she is required to act when it comes to isolating persons infected with a contagious disease and quarantining persons who are exposed to a communicable disease, if the disease is deemed quarantinable by the State of Ohio.

"After numerous discussions with school districts in our County, many did not feel they had the proper authority to exclude students from school who had not been officially ordered into quarantine by the Health Commissioner," Seward explained "I had hoped to just provide quarantine recommendations to contacts, but due to the difficult position that placed the schools in, I found it necessary to issue orders so that districts would have the needed documentation for exclusion."

The quarantine orders have caused outrage among many in Tuscarawas County. Seward tried to offer an explanation in her note. "Please understand that placing students in quarantine is not an act of malice or retaliation against those who have chosen to remain unvaccinated or those who speak out against mask or vaccine mandates. Those are the guidelines I am required to follow. Simply put, it is my job."

You can read Seward's entire letter below

On Monday, the Tuscarawas County Board of Health posted a letter on Facebook in support of Seward. "While we understand that COVID-19 safety protocols can be frustrating, we simply ask that you treat our health commissioner and her staff with courtesy and respect as they fulfill their job responsibilities," the letter from the Board stated. 

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