SHARE YOUR STORY: “What matters most to me is taking care of my family.” – Giovanny

Giovanny’s Vaccine Story:

Photo story by Sylvia Johnson. Made possible by National Geographic Society’s Emergency Fund for Journalists and created in collaboration with Garfield County Public Health.

Han cambiado muchos aspectos de la vida. En mi trabajo, en la vida personal, con los niños, en todo ha cambiado. El uso de la mascarilla, las restricciones de que no puedes hacer lo que hacías en tu vida cotidiana, pero poco a poco se ha ido uno adaptando a esto. 

A mí me ha dado Covid una vez. Estuvo un poco duro, porque los síntomas que yo tuve fueron mucha fiebre y dolor de huesos exagerado. Yo no perdí el olfato y el sabor, pero no podía pasar comida. Es lo que más batallé, que no podía pasar la saliva y no podía comer nada, aunque yo tenía mucha hambre.

Decidí ponerme la vacuna primero, porque ya me dio el coronavirus y ya no quiero que me vuelva a dar. Segundo, porque trató de cuidar mi trabajo y trato de cuidar a mi familia, a mi esposa. Mi esposa, de hecho, como trabaja para salud pública, ya se la puso hace mucho tiempo, fue de las primeras personas. A ella no le ha dado y ella ha estado conmigo. Tengo un niño de cinco años y trato de cuidarlo. Lo que más me importa es cuidar a mi familia.

Yo soy carnicero, trabajo en una carnicería y atiendo a mucha gente. Por eso es que también tomé la decisión de ponerme la vacuna, porque yo puedo estar cubierto, pero no sé las demás personas. En el trabajo, si estás vacunado, ya no tienes que hacer la cuarentena, porque estás cubierto con la vacuna. Yo pienso que es una protección tener la vacuna y estar en un trabajo.

Tengo tres hermanas y algunas habían optado por no ponérsela, pero ahorita cambiaron de pensamiento, ya están tratando de ponérsela, porque vieron lo que pasó conmigo, que nada más fue un día realmente lo que te sientes mal, no tiene ningún efecto secundario la vacuna.


Project Summary 

La Vacuna es Para Nosotros (The Vaccine is for Us) is a photo essay consisting of 14 photo stories created by Sylvia Johnson in collaboration with Garfield County Public Health as a tool for local community organizations to share stories and build trust in the Covid-19 vaccine among the Latinx immigrant community. Shot as environmental portraits, these photo stories include families, restaurant workers, business owners, farm workers, law officers, housekeepers, medical interpreters, and students who each share what their experience with the Covid-19 pandemic has been like and what motivated them to want to get vaccinated. The photo stories are available in Spanish and English. As we aim for widespread immunity through vaccination to stop this pandemic, this project humanizes the fallout of the illness, the process of getting vaccinated, and the protection the vaccine offers for being able to live and work safely again.

Sylvia is a National Geographic Explorer and a third culture kid who was born in Latin America and raised in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has been working as a bilingual contact tracer for Garfield County since November and received a small rapid response grant from National Geographic to create this vaccine equity storytelling project.

Without Volunteers, Mesa County’s Mass Vaccination Effort Wouldn’t be Possible

Without Volunteers, Mesa County’s Mass Vaccination Effort Wouldn’t be Possible

After living in a pandemic dominated country for nearly a year, Mesa County finally received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December. The ‘’liquid gold” in tiny vials, as it’s been described was immediately administered to the county’s first priority group by Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) and area hospitals. In early January, when the mass vaccination point of dispensing (POD) location opened, the need for additional staff was essential. 

Through the course of the pandemic, health care professionals and other essential workers have been dubbed coronavirus heroes. Since the COVID-19 vaccines emerged, another hero has been added to the list: volunteers.  

“We could never expand to a level that is significant to our community without the volunteers,” said Jeff Kuhr, Executive Director of Mesa County Public Health. Though MCPH has hired several temporary employees in the past year to respond to the pandemic, staffing up to the necessary level for mass vaccine distribution would be impossible to both establish and maintain. 

So far, the phased vaccine distribution rollout has been sluggish in Mesa County due to high demand and short supply of vaccine across the nation, but the need for volunteers never goes away. “We just hope that any day, or any week, we get a huge surge of vaccine coming in, and at that point, we will be prepared, thanks to our volunteers,” said Kuhr. 

Grand Valley residents have already stepped up and offered to volunteer their time.

“The community interest in making this vaccination effort a success is gratifying,” said Sue Kiser, the Volunteer Coordinator at Mesa County Public Health’s mass COVID-19 vaccination site.

Since the site opened, about 450 residents have signed up to help in positions from vaccinators to greeters. “They just want to be part of the solution,” said Kiser.

Diana Nicholes, a volunteer at the vaccination site echoed Kiser, saying, “It’s important, it’s just so important.” 

After retiring as a school teacher, Nicholes found it easy to give her time to benefit our community. In addition to feeling a sense of accomplishment, she’s happy to volunteer because it allows her to socialize during an otherwise isolating time. “It’s so nice to get out of the house, it’s actually been fun.”

Even with the generosity so far, more help is needed. If you are able to donate time to the vaccine efforts in Mesa County, visit and click the “Volunteer To Help” button.

Pregnant During the Pandemic

Pregnant During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyday life into a stressful time for many across our community.  Imagine what the pandemic must be like during the already stressful time of pregnancy, and imagine still the pressure of being a teenager, pregnant during the pandemic.

Expectant mothers are finding support through a community program called Nurse-Family Partnership, it’s run in Mesa County through Mesa County Public Health. An article published recently for the Colorado Trust titled, “Colorado Teens Pregnant During the Pandemic Face Increased Isolation and Difficult Decisions,” shares insight into the services offered through the program and features a local teen’s story

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Montgomery wants her boyfriend Jesse to be with her for their daughter’s birth in December. She would also really like her mother present for the labor and delivery. However, she’s allowed only one visitor under current hospital policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“My mom is my best friend. I’ve always wanted her to be there to meet her grandbaby and support me,” said Montgomery. “It’s hard that she might not be able to.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has created additional strains and stresses for all pregnant people, teen parents face particular challenges to their mental and physical well-being, and that of their babies. Still children themselves, teenagers have needs that differ from older parents, and the pandemic has made their pregnancies even more challenging.

“One of the things we’ve heard from all of our moms—of any age—is fear around what delivery will look like at the hospital in [the] time of COVID,” said Amanda Jensen, program supervisor for the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) in Mesa County, a nonprofit that provides support to new mothers.

For pregnant teens, “frequently, their mother is their main support,” Jensen added. “It’s harder than any other age group. They typically want more people around them, involved with their childbirth. COVID-19 restrictions are hugely disappointing to them—it changes what that will look like.”

Montgomery is a NFP client who doesn’t drive and lives with her mother in Clifton, Colo., an unincorporated community near Grand Junction. To keep herself and the baby safe during the pandemic, she spends most of her time alone at the house, while her mom works and 19-year-old Jesse—who lives with his parents—holds down two jobs, one of which is in a restaurant.

Read the full article here

For more information about Nurse-Family Partnership click here.

Looking for resources during the pandemic?  Check out this section of our website.

Pregnant During the Pandemic

COVID-19 Stories: Airborne Transmission

Fall is prime time on the Western Slope, with temperatures perfect for dining outdoors, hiking in the desert, and taking in the colors on the Grand Mesa. However, as the weather cools, many are thinking ahead to winter and wondering whether more inside time will affect how we approach protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a brief with the most up-to-date information on airborne transmission of COVID-19. In public health, the term “airborne transmission” is usually reserved to describe infectious particles, like measles virus, that are able to stay in the air for longer periods of time and over greater distances. 

Since COVID-19 is a new virus, we’re still learning about how it behaves. However, COVID-19 appears to be primarily spread through respiratory droplets – small amounts of moisture exhaled into the air when we breathe, speak, sing, cough, or sneeze – that carry the infectious virus and quickly fall out of the air. This is why we are advised to stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, since close contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for fifteen minutes or more. 

As the days get shorter and we spend less time outside, however, it’s important to be aware of the circumstances when airborne transmission of COVID-19 is most likely to occur. According to the CDC, these include: 

  • Prolonged exposure to an area where there has been some kind of exertion, such as shouting, singing, or exercise, that increased the concentration of respiratory droplets;
  • Settings with inadequate ventilation that allowed infectious particles to build up in the air; and
  • Enclosed spaces where susceptible people have either been exposed directly to an infectious person or where the infectious person has recently spent time. 

The good news is that in most situations, the everyday precautions you’ve been hearing about for the past six months, like wearing a cloth face covering, washing your hands, and maintaining at least six feet between people not in the same household, are also likely to be sufficient to protect against airborne transmission. Taking steps to improve ventilation, such as opening doors and windows and using freestanding air filters, can also help. Additional information about how to protect yourself from airborne transmission of COVID-19 can be found here.

When people are in tighter quarters for longer periods of time, as we often are during the winter months, COVID-19 spreads more easily. Cold weather and early nightfall are right around the corner. If you’ve been lax about wearing a mask or keeping space between each other over the summer, now is the time to start being consistent in following those precautions to keep yourself, your friends and family, and our community healthy.     

Pregnant During the Pandemic

COVID-19 Stories: The Shame Game

As the season changes and weather begins to cool, we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in Mesa County. We’re working hard to reverse this course with your help, but it’s not the only trend we want to buck. Public shaming has taken center stage during the pandemic, and our community is not immune. 

At Mesa County Public Health, it’s our job to keep you informed of the latest statewide COVID-19 guidance, establish local public health orders, and work with you to keep Mesa County healthy. We trust that each resident will be responsible with the information at their disposal to keep themselves and others safe and healthy as well.

As health guidance such as social distancing, mask wearing, and restricted traveling are widely promoted across the nation, opinions vary both in favor and opposed. However, when those opinions become weapons to bully others in the form of shaming, our community is harmed.

The latest trend has been dubbed “COVID Shaming.” Once someone has received the dreaded news that they are COVID-19 positive, many people feel detached— perhaps no longer being invited to small social gatherings, unable to participate in sports, and relegated to a separate room in the house. Social media, however, takes it a step further, allowing users to publicly criticize and humiliate others for decisions made, opinions held, and actions taken that, in the context of a COVID-19 diagnosis, are viewed by some as condemnable. 

Everything we currently know about the virus tells us that once the symptoms have passed and the prescribed quarantine is over, the person who fell ill can re-enter normal, everyday activities without getting someone else sick. 

Mask shaming is also rampant, sometimes even rising to the level of bullying – both online and in person. Coloradans are required to wear masks in public per the Governor’s executive order, and there’s sound science behind it. Some individuals are unable to wear one for health reasons, others err on the safe side and wear a mask even in situations where they’re not required. Jumping to conclusions or judgment about why someone is or is not wearing a mask is unlikely to have any useful outcome. 

Shaming and bullying divide our community, and increase conflict and animosity in a time when tensions are already running high. COVID-19 has caused strain, but so do shaming and bullying. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Let’s start right here in Mesa County and buck the COVID-shaming trend.

Pregnant During the Pandemic

COVID-19 Stories: Supporting our Students and Schools This Fall 

Just about every day, we are witnessing schools around the country pivot, stretch, and change the way they operate in response to COVID-19. Schools and school districts, including in Mesa County, are under immense pressure to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak while educating our children this fall and combating the effects of the spring pandemic slide. It’s a big lift to say the least, but community support and volunteer manpower (though not in the ways you may traditionally think about it) can help alleviate the impacts.

In School District 51, some educators have chosen to teach online, and many more families than anticipated have embraced the remote learning option. When District 51 surveyed parents and guardians in July, 5% indicated they would enroll their students in remote learning. Now that school has started, somewhere around 14% of students have opted for online learning . This new dynamic has left District 51, like other districts across the nation, in uncharted waters as they move quickly to reassign teachers, mobilize substitutes, and adapt once again. 

Children’s education is foundational to their success as adults. According to Public School Review, third grade reading levels correlate with high school graduation rates. After third grade, students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” and if they cannot comprehend the content, learning can be much more difficult. When this is the case, extra efforts to help kids get on track are essential to their long-term success. 

While we know our schools and teachers are doing the best they can, we also know that our children’s education is affected by all of the changes COVID-19 has brought to our lives. Community support – from parents, retired people, college students, and others – always has an impact on student success. Although current health and safety considerations may change what that support looks like, the challenges of COVID-19 make it more critical than ever. 

Here are some ideas for how you can jump in and make a difference in short order. If you can’t help out, consider passing this on to a friend or family member who might be able to: 

Substitute Teach

Substitute teachers are always in demand, but according to District 51 spokesperson Catherine Foster-Gruber, “We need substitutes now more than ever to ensure that there are no learning disruptions if a teacher falls ill.” The qualifications and application process are listed online here. Background checks are required. 

Volunteer Online

While in-person volunteer opportunities are limited in our public schools, there is still a need for volunteers. District 51 has made changes because of this reality and is now assigning online volunteers to help with tutoring, reading, and storytelling. To sign up or learn more, contact April Hart with District 51’s Volunteer Office. She can be reached at or 970-254-5114 ext. 11112. If you’d like to volunteer outside of District 51, contact the school or school district you are interested in to inquire about volunteer opportunities.


The Riverside Educational Center (REC) is a nonprofit organization providing after school tutoring and enrichment programs to K-12 students in District 51. At the onset of COVID-19, they pivoted quickly to offer online options to their students through remote tutoring, homework help, and enrichment videos delivered to students’ homes. Today, they are back to in-person tutoring and after school programs in ten schools across the valley, serving up to 50 students at each location.  

According to Joy Hudak, REC’s executive director, “We have several positions available and would love to have anyone familiar with our mission and interested in helping our efforts apply.” To learn more about REC’s mission and inquire about available tutoring positions, visit their website.  REC is also currently enrolling students who need additional support. If you know of a student who could benefit from tutoring, homework help, or enrichment activities, contact REC at 970-462-2901. 

Contribute Financially

Schools and youth-serving organizations appreciate – and count on – financial contributions. Consider giving to the District 51 Foundation, REC, or another local organization that supports young people in our community.