County appoints public health director with vaccine rollout in progress |

County appoints public health director with vaccine rollout in progress

The Grand County Board of Health has selected Abbie Baker as the next public health director.

Effective Saturday, Baker will take over for Brene Belew-LaDue, who announced in December that she would be stepping down as director this month.

Baker has served as the county’s deputy director since February, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has worked for Grand County Public Health since 2018. Grand County commissioners, acting as the board of health, approved her appointment unanimously on Tuesday.

“We’re excited to have Abbie come aboard,” Commissioner Merrit Linke said.

After accepting the position, Baker thanked the commissioners for the appointment and Belew-LaDue for her mentorship.

Grand County Public Health also gave an update on COVID-19 and vaccinations in the county. Grand has seen an uptick in COVID infections following the holidays with 129 new cases in the last two weeks.

The county remains above the level Red metric for case rates, though local restrictions are now in line with Orange level guidelines. Four residents are currently hospitalized and the county has seen a positivity rate of 9% during the last two weeks, equal to the Yellow level.

As for vaccinations, Belew-LaDue said the health department has distributed 205 doses as of Monday morning. The department continues to work with local health care providers to vaccinate those 70 and older.

Distribution of the vaccines has been hindered by a number of factors, according to Belew-LaDue, who said that the health department has received fewer vaccine dosages than ordered this week as they continue working to vaccinate first-responders.

The logistics of the process have also hampered the rollout. The vaccine vials come in doses of 10, though occasionally they have enough for 11. Once the vial has been opened, the doses must be used within six hours.

If patients don’t show up or an extra dose is found, Belew-LaDue said that public health works from a list to contact and bring in people that would be able to make it within that small window.

Patients also have to be observed for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine for any side effects while still social distancing.

“The logistics are harder than any other vaccine that we have,” Belew-LaDue said.

For seniors and anybody wanting to receive the vaccine, the best thing to do is register online at If someone can’t register online, the health department can sign people up over the phone by having them call 970-725-3288 and leave a message.

Once mass vaccinations are possible in the late spring or summer, Belew-LaDue asserted the health department has plans in place for large-scale vaccine drives.

Second doses for those already vaccinated in Grand begin next week.

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