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Franklin County health director resigns, citing threats against her

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Franklin County, Mo. starts allowing businesses to reopen

The streets in the historic part or Washington, Mo. were quiet and many businesses are still closed because of the coronavirus shutdown as seen on Saturday, April 25, 2020. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

FRANKLIN COUNTY — Franklin County’s health director has resigned, alleging threats of violence against her, county Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker confirmed on Wednesday.

Angie Hittson was hired by the county in October 2007, according to salary records. In 2013 she was promoted to director of the health department, she said on social media.

She is a registered nurse, according to state records, and before working for Franklin County, she worked at St. Anthony’s Medical Center — now Mercy Hospital South — and SSM Health, according to her LinkedIn profile.

But Hittson told the county in her resignation letter that she was overwhelmed by threats during the coronavirus pandemic, Brinker said, as the county worked to trace COVID-19 infections, coordinate quarantines, and hold vaccination clinics.

“I just think, overall, the blocks of animosity keep stacking up, and some folks are overwhelmed,” Brinker said.

Brinker said he legally could not release Hittson’s resignation letter, because it is part of her personnel file. But he had read portions of the letter aloud to the Washington, Missouri, paper, The Missourian, which published the quotes in a story Tuesday.

In those sections, Hittson said she had been subjected to daily verbal assaults and threats of violence and death.

Similar allegations have been reported by other area county health departments throughout the pandemic.

In July 2020, residents protested outside the Jefferson County health department as the county health board discussed a proposal to require masks in public places. The health director later said that some had threatened to protest in front of her home.

In November 2020, the director of the St. Francois County public health department resigned, citing threats and harassment.

Brinker said Hittson has been good for Franklin County. “She served the citizens well,” he said.

Tony Buel, an epidemiologist with the health department, will serve as interim director, Brinker said. The county is looking for applicants to take on the role permanently.

As of Friday, Franklin County’s most recent COVID-19 update, there were 401 new weekly infections, up from 141 during the week that ended on Oct. 29. The county said 11 of its residents were hospitalized with the virus.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” Brinker said.

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