SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As the architect of one of the first shelter-in-place orders in the country, Santa Clara County's top public health official, Dr. Sara Cody, has been criticized for taking a cautious approach to reopening the economy.
Now, the sheriff's office is investigating threats made against her in recent weeks.
The county released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying in part, "We condemn any effort to harm or intimidate our Public Health Officer, an individual who deserves our respect and appreciation for having the bravery to make the tough calls needed to protect the health and well-being of all our residents, including the most vulnerable members of our community."
The threats, which the sheriff's office did not elaborate on, come as health departments across the country face mounting pressure to relax restrictions related to COVID-19.
Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, recognizes the hardship that has been placed on residents.
"What we ask of medical professionals and scientists is to follow the facts and to give us their best judgement and we want to encourage scientists to continue to do that," said Chavez.
Statewide, seven public health officers have quit since the start of the pandemic, including the top health official in Orange County, who received death threats for requiring face coverings to be worn in public. The order has since been rescinded.
This week, the Big Cities Health Coalition and the National Association of County and City Health Officials released a joint statement saying "The experts who comprise our public health departments are true heroes. We should be thanking them for their tireless work and heeding their advice, not threatening their safety and careers."
As counties decide how and when to reopen sectors of society, Dr. George Han, Santa Clara County's no. 2 health official, says his team will continue to look at the impact of reopening activities every three weeks. This will give officials time to check for any increases in virus transmission once the incubation period has lapsed.
"There's so many aspects that are involved, and the complexities keeps growing and growing," said Dr. Han. "We've looked at the case counts and hospitalizations, and the other indicators, testing, so that we can slowly and methodically reopen."
Santa Clara County is the Bay Area's most populous county and was the original local hot spot for COVID-19 cases.
Alameda County now has the highest total across the region.