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 health.mesacounty.us and click the “Volunteer To Help” button.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 April.Hart@d51schools.org 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.
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.
Mesa County is a community of doers, helpers, and fixers. Many of you have joined our volunteer team to answer phones and staff our COVID-19 testing site, and for that we are grateful! Many others have demonstrated support for our community through your willingness to wear masks, to limit or avoid travel, and through the simple act of staying home if you are feeling unwell. Thank you for doing your part and coming alongside us in a time of need. It has made a difference, and as a result we were recently approved to enter the Protect Our Neighbors phase of reopening.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) has received so much support from the community, yet generous local residents continue to ask how else they can help, what else they can give, to assist our community during the pandemic. If you’d like to lend a helping hand, here are a few ideas to consider:
Volunteer: If you are passionate about an issue, chances are there’s an organization dedicated to the same issue that would benefit from your time. Consider our community’s nonprofits (Western Colorado 211 is a great place to do some research), then reach out to one that appeals to you to find out how you can be helpful. Many of the typical volunteer duties have changed due to the implementation of safe social distancing, so check in through a phone call or an email before you show up. MCPH has also been putting volunteers to work – If you’re interested in helping our team, please call 970-248-6900 to get connected.
Donate Financially: As revenues have decreased so have many organizations’ bottom lines, which has forced some nonprofits to make tough choices. If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to support your favorite organizations financially, do so! Your contribution will help ensure important local services and supports continue.
Donate Resources: Many organizations count on donated items to help the populations they serve, whether it be homeless individuals, youth, children in foster care, or older adults. Items like canned goods, coats, socks, laptops and bicycles can be a huge blessing. Again, reach out to a nonprofit whose mission you feel passionate about and inquire what items they need before you donate. Consider organizing a collection drive to make a bigger impact if you’re able.
Donate Blood: Blood donations are always needed because blood has a limited shelf life. St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center encourages donors to call 970-298-2555 or visit their online scheduling site to make an appointment for a local blood donation.
If you would like to donate blood plasma to help COVID-19 patients recover through convalescent plasma treatment, you must have had a confirmed positive test for coronavirus and be fully recovered. Contact 303.813.5230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be screened for eligibility.
Offer Food Assistance: With employment and school disruptions related to the pandemic, food insecurity has followed. Many individuals and families who were able to meet their needs in the past are struggling, and those who have experienced hunger previously may be having an even more difficult time now. If you think a neighbor or acquaintance might not have enough to eat, delivering a meal (home-cooked or not!) or an anonymous grocery gift card may be more impactful than you could ever know. Western Colorado 211 updates their list of local food assistance opportunities regularly – you can find it here.
Support Mental Health: The stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 has had an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many Mesa County residents. Mind Springs Health, in addition to their regular behavioral health services, offers Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to help equip community members with the tools to recognize the signs of a mental health crisis and the skills to respond. If you are interested in completing a MHFA training, check out the calendar here. Courses to help support both adults and youth are offered free of charge multiple times throughout the year.
Maintain Vigilance: There are many ways to lend a hand, and we hope these ideas have helped you consider how your time, talents, and resources may best be put to use. However you choose to do your part, we ask that you not lose sight of the critical effectiveness of the simple, everyday actions that have gotten us to the Protect our Neighbors stage: Keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
Thanks for being in this with us. We are grateful to serve a community of incredible people who give back in meaningful ways every day!