Merrill Police Department Facebook post about testing meth for coronavirus goes viral, receives national media attention
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
MERRILL – A post on the Merrill Police Department’s Facebook page has gotten a lot of traction on social media in the past week, along with the attention of several national media outlets.
The post, published on Wednesday, Feb. 26 as a faux public service announcement, jokingly tells readers to turn in their meth because it may be infected with novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“WARNING: If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated with the Corona Virus,” the post says. “Please take it to the Merrill Police Department and we will test it for free. If you’re not comfortable going into an office setting, please request any officer and they’ll test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word! We are here for you!”
The post was covered by media outlets across the country, including The Washington Post, USA Today, KTLA in Los Angeles, Calif., and The Hill, after racking up over 6,500 shares, 4,300 reactions and 1,500 comments as of Friday, Feb. 28.
Some commenters saw the post as a lighthearted joke.
“THIS is priceless! Thank you for a very much needed laugh and for all you do! Please update at a later time, so we know!” read one comment.
“Gotta have a sense of humor in today’s world! Thank you for your service and humor!” said another.
However, others felt that the post was in poor taste, accusing the department of trivializing both substance abuse and the seriousness of coronavirus, which has infected nearly 90,000 people and killed almost 3,000 across 52 countries. There have been 60 confirmed cases in the United States.
“While other departments are creating substance use outreach programs, you’re doing this. Substance use disorder is a public health crisis,” one comment read. “Making a mockery of it is putting you further away from a solution.”
Another commenter said, “I would rather not see police departments making ‘jokes’ like this online or posting false information about a pandemic … .”
The following day, the department added an update to the post, acknowledging that the post had “sparked a lot of opinions, emotions, and touched some tender spots.”
“Just to give you some history, we have actually experienced people report their illegal drugs being stolen, being ripped off in a drug deal, being sold a look-a-like illegal substance, etc.,” the update says. “We have even experienced drunk drivers coming to pick up arrested drunk drivers as their ‘sober responsible party’. So this attempt, although a long shot, still had some possibility behind it. We will take those easy grabs at removing poison from our community whenever we can. That is our role which we un-apologetically must fulfill.”
The department added that it hopes an arrest would be “the positive catalyst someone may need to start recovery” and provided links to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s website providing information about coronavirus and a resource guide on the Lincoln County website.
“If you or someone else need a hand, a phone, or just a little help taking that step, WE ARE ALWAYS HERE FOR YOU!” the post stated.