OSAGE COUNTY — Osage County Health Department (OCHD) Administrator Kim Sallin and Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham told commissioners last week they were aware of threats to mail …
OSAGE COUNTY — Osage County Health Department (OCHD) Administrator Kim Sallin and Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham told commissioners last week they were aware of threats to mail fentanyl and other powdered drugs to government offices.
Bonham explained that on Thursday, Nov. 9, suspicious letters were sent — including some containing fentanyl — to elections offices in at least five states during the week, delaying the counting of ballots in some local races in the latest instance of threats faced by election workers around the country.
The letters were sent to election offices in the presidential battlegrounds of Georgia and Nevada, as well as California, Oregon, and Washington, with some intercepted before they arrived. Four of the letters contained fentanyl, the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported in a statement to elections officials Thursday.
“Law enforcement is working diligently to intercept any additional letters before they are delivered,” the statement noted.
Bonham said that according to the Associated Press, Pierce County Auditor’s Office in Tacoma, Wash., released images of the letter it received, showing it had been postmarked in Portland, Ore., and read in part, “End elections now.”
In Seattle, King County Elections Director Julie Wise said that letter appeared to be the same one her office received — and that it was “very similar” to one King County received during the August primary, which also contained fentanyl.
Bonham said his office was sent a notice of the activity and passed it along to the elected officials in the county. “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that the clerk’s office open the mail with a letter opener and gloves,” he added. “If you see a white powdery substance, say, ‘I don’t think that’s normal.’
We also would recommend everyone be trained in the use of Narcan and have it available.”
Osage County Health Department (OCHD) Administrator Kim Sallin is prepared to offer supplies of Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, a simple nasal spray that blocks the effects of opioid overdoses long enough to get medical help for a victim. “It’s available at the OCHD for anybody who wants it,” said Sallin told commissioners last week.
Both urged employees in all offices to be vigilant, especially those handling heavy mail volume. Departments accustomed to dealing with contentious constituents, like the Assessor’s Office, the Collector’s Office, and election authorities, should stay as alert as possible.
The detection of fentanyl is critical to the incident response; only personnel specifically trained to perform field-testing should perform the testing wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, and the sheriff recommended everyone avoid performing tasks or operations that may aerosolize the suspected substance.
Bonham noted that inhalation of powders or aerosols, mucous membrane contact, ingestion, or exposure secondary to a break in the skin (for example, a needle stick) present the greatest concern for exposure.
Any of these exposure routes can potentially result in a variety of symptoms that can include the rapid onset of life-threatening respiratory depression. Skin contact is also a potential exposure method. Still, it is not likely to lead to overdose unless exposures are to liquid or powder over an extended period. Brief skin contact with illicit fentanyl is not expected to lead to toxic effects, provided any visible contamination is promptly removed.
Bonham and Sallin said they will remain vigilant in case of exposure. Anyone noting a letter with a white powder should contact the sheriff’s office immediately.