Garfield County Public Health providers reflect on a year with COVID-19 |

Garfield County Public Health providers reflect on a year with COVID-19

A pandemic that ‘truly permeated’ their lives

Rachel Kappler, left, and Joan Hayes outside of the Glenwood Springs Garfield County Public Health building.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent caught up with two Garfield County Public Health employees to hear their reflections on the past year with COVID-19. Rachel Kappler is a public health nurse who works to educate about COVID-19 and prevent its spread, and Joan Rankin Hayes who is a registered nurse and public health nurse. Hayes said she works as a Childcare Health Consultant and previously was involved with the Family Advisory Council Roaring Fork Schools before she was moved to work with the COVID-19 team full time. Below are their insights on what it was like to spend a year without being able to escape COVID-19 in their personal or professional lives.

1. Do you remember where your head was at a year ago when Covid was first starting to pop up in GarCo? Can you talk about that a little bit more and what you were anticipating?

Kappler: I remember having that feeling of impending doom. I felt very nervous about the future and its implications for our county, my family, my life, and our nation.

Rankin Hayes: As the first cases started to show up here, I actually thought it was kind of exciting to be pulled into the response. It felt like we were doing vital work to keep the communities in our valley informed, and attempting to keep as many people as possible from catching the virus, or having severe effects of the virus.

2. How do you keep your spirits up and maintain your mental health while being constantly surrounded by Covid, both in your professional and personal lives? How do you strike a balance between work and when you’re off duty? What has helped you this past year to continue providing quality health care to the community?

Kappler: The absolute hardest thing for me is finding that separation between work and my personal life. COVID-19 has truly permeated every part of my life. … I also try to set boundaries on the amount of COVID-19 conversation that I can have when I am off work. … When I am not working, I spend time with my fiancé, our dog, and get outside. I am so grateful to live in a place that offers beauty and abundant recreation opportunities in every direction. I hold on and cherish the moments of success that I have had at work because it fuels my belief that my work makes a difference.

Rankin Hayes: The constancy of it has been really hard. In everything else I’m involved with, I get asked COVID questions. I usually don’t mind, but sometimes I’m ready to just move on to something else and I think my family and friends get that. … There are two things that have helped me the most. The first is the support we’ve received from our public health director, my nursing supervisor, and our amazing dedicated team of coworkers. … The other thing that has helped me get through is the awesome collaboration we’ve been able to maintain with the schools and the child care/preschool providers and teams. … Without their contributions, time, cooperation, and gratitude, it would have been a much rougher year.

Rachel Kappler, left, and Joan Hayes work to contact people and track any covid-19 outbreaks in Garfield County.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

3. How are you feeling going forward into this next season of COVID-19 with the vaccine rollout and the temperature starting to get warmer again?

Kappler: I am hopeful that we can reach herd immunity through vaccines but am worried about future surges and COVID-19 variants which could hinder our current trajectory and progress.

Rankin Hayes: Feeling cautiously good about it! I look forward to administering the vaccine in our clinics as it becomes more available. I’ve been able to give it to some people in specific organizations/populations, and it’s nice to see the relief they experience after having had COVID during the past year and knowing how hard it was for them.

4. What would you like to say to community members about your experiences from this past year?

Kappler: This past year without a doubt has been the most challenging and difficult time in my career as a nurse. The impacts of this pandemic have changed me forever. I am saddened by the lives lost and heartened by those in this community who go above and beyond to protect the lives of others.

Rankin Hayes: I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all those people who have helped in whatever way, big or small — in taking care of yourselves, your families, and helping protect those in our valley who have been at risk.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview about the 1-year anniversary of Covid in GarCO?

Kappler: No matter what situations you are surrounded by in life, remember to take care of yourself in the ways that nourish and revive your spirit.

Rankin Hayes: It’s been a historic year in so many ways. Our county has suffered economically, physically, socially, educationally, personally, mentally, and emotionally, with loss of life in unexpected numbers in the beginning. … I hope and pray that we will grow more cohesive as a valley-wide community, that we will continue to work in new and long-established collaborative ways, and that we will all work together for equity in access to health, economic opportunity, and safety for ourselves and our children.


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