ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — Maryland lawmakers are working on a bill that would ban and criminalize threats against public health officials and healthcare workers.

Last year Dr. Travis Gayles left his position as Montgomery County Chief Health Officer. During the briefing, he testified that he received threatening and racist messages during his time with the county.

“You are the prime example why some white folks call black folks the “N bomb,” said Dr. Gayles. “If ever there was a picture that should be attached to the definition for added clarity, your selfies is it. You “blank blank.”

Washington County Chief Health Officer Earl Stoner also testified and shared that his family has even received threats over his public health decisions.

“Personally I’ve received written and verbal threats have been harassed and intimidated in public,” said Stoner. I had my child harassed at school. and in response to these threats, I’ve had to have a security system put in place at my home. I’ve had to have law enforcement and security patrols.”

House Bill 267 would impose penalties that are up to 500 dollars and up to 90 days in prison. Montgomery County Council Vice President Evan Glass shares concerns that the health officer position remains unfilled because of these threats. 

“We need people to treat some of our public servants with a level of respect and understanding otherwise, these positions are going to be going unfilled.”

Currently, there are 35 states and the district that already have laws to protect health care workers. This bill would extend the protections from just elected officials, to include healthcare officials and workers.