GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Kent County Health Department director sent a letter to county commissioners pleading for help and outlining his reasons for issuing a public health order requiring students in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade to wear masks this fall.
The letter sent to Kent County Commissioners by Dr. Adam London on Aug. 22 paints a troubling picture of how the public reaction to the health department's decision to mandate masks for students in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade to wear masks has impacted the lives of health department employees.
“I had a woman try to run me off the road at 70+ miles per hour…twice, on Friday night. I think we have all seen the aggression and violence displayed at meetings across the nation during the past week,” London wrote in his letter to commissioners.
“There is nothing to be gained by entertaining such people with dialog. In many cases, these are the same people who dismiss the plot against the governor as ‘just guys joking around’ and the January 6th insurrection as a peaceful patriotic protest. I think it is a grave mistake to unnecessarily give them targets and platforms. There is a sickness in America far more insidious than COVID. You are more empowered to fight this disease than I am.”
London went on to say that his team is “broken” and in need of help.
“I need help. My team and I are broken. I’m about done. I’ve done my job to the best of my ability. I’ve given just about everything to Kent County, and now I’ve given some more of my safety.”
London told commissioners he would not “needlessly expose” himself to "the brute mob hatred" from a “vocal and energized minority.”
“I will not participate in witch trials in which the science I’ve presented, and the opinions of legitimate experts, is reduced to the same stage as people living in echo chambers of junk science, salespeople, and YouTube videos. For the leaders of these misinformation campaigns, it’s never really been about our data, it’s been about their dogma,” London wrote.
The order requiring students in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade to wear masks was issued on Aug. 20.
According to the Kent County Health Department, the order was issued to protect vulnerable individuals and those who are not yet vaccinated, to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools and the community, and to minimize interruptions to in-person learning.
After the order was issued, a group of lawmakers from West Michigan sent a letter to London asking him to reconsider the order. In the letter, the lawmakers argue the decision to mandate masks in schools should be made by local school boards and parents “working in tandem with their communities and local health officials.”
"No matter what their position is on the mask.. I hope they can support the position and understand how important it is," said Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack. "And understand how important it is that Dr. London and his staff feel safe coming in to work each day, for the betterment of all people in Kent County," said Kent Co. Commissioner Robert Womack.
At a county commissioner meeting a few days later, more than 100 people gave public comments about the mask mandate. Some members of the community asked commissioners to rescind the public health order, remove Dr. London or defund the health department.
Earlier this month, county commissioners announced that their legal team had concluded that “neither the Kent County Board of Commissioners nor the county administrator/controller have the authority to intervene in the health officer’s performance of his statutory duties under Michigan’s Public Health Code.”
The code, which was established by the state legislature in 1978 for the protection and promotion of public health, specifically states that health officers “may take actions and make determinations necessary or appropriate to carry out the local health department’s functions under this part or functions delegated under this part and to protect the public health and prevent disease.”
Tuesday afternoon, Dr. London released a video on the Kent County Health Department's Facebook page addressing the concerns of residents.
"We all desperately want to be past COVID-19 and live in a world without public health orders, without quarantine, without canceled events, without full hospitals, and without illness and death. Please understand that I hear you," London said.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Kent County Board of Commissioners released a statement condemning the threats toward London.
"As a large and diverse County, we will not agree on every issue," said the Board Chair Mandy Bolter in the statement. "However, we are one community and we should hold ourselves to the highest standard of public discourse. Threats of violence against any resident or County employee is, without question, unacceptable and should be immediately reported to the proper authorities."
You can read Dr. London’s full letter to Kent County commissioners below.
Dr. London Email to Kent Co Board of Commissioners by WXMI on Scribd
Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor continued to question Dr. London's decision in spite of the harassment claims. FOX 17's Julie Dunmire got in touch with Antor regarding those questions.
Later, Antor made the following post on Facebook, saying in part, "If Adam London is making these claims, I believe him.":
As news of the threats toward London just recently came to light, commissioners will likely address them at the next board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 23.