By Hunter Carter
With COVID-19 vaccines continuing to roll out throughout the United States, health care professionals much like University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing alumna Marguerite Leeds, MSN, are urging residents to continue following the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Leeds, who earned her master’s of science in nursing from the UABSON Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway (AMNP) in 2020, transitioned from her role as a public health nurse in the Anchorage Department of Health Reproductive Health Clinic to the role of COVID-19 Case Investigator in Anchorage in March 2020. This role includes contact tracing and working with COVID-19 patients, as well as providing support to other people who may have come in contact with the patient.
“Not long after I joined the case investigation team, I was named a supervisor where I supervise a team of anywhere from three to 15 contact tracers at one time, and we work to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Anchorage community,” said Leeds. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, it has been all hands on deck within the Anchorage Health Department, but we are starting to move duties around so that we can go back to our original roles within the Department.”
Being a COVID-19 Case Investigator and supervising a team is no easy task, but Leeds said there have been some inspiring and cheerful moments within our community during the pandemic.
“One thing that has been really beautiful is how people have come together and supported each other,” said Leeds. “One story I love sharing is when I called a new resident who said she needed food but couldn’t afford to pay for it. After discussing what we could do to help, she gave me permission to call a local church that was able to deliver food during her infectious period up until she was well enough to return to work. She was absolutely overwhelmed with relief and it was nice to be a part of some good news during all this.”
During the pandemic, she said Anchorage increased some social services, including rental assistance, shelter housing and emergency housing for vulnerable residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m really proud of my community for imagining and funding these ambitious projects to help people in need,” Leeds said.
As of April 2021, the Anchorage region had a 36.7 percent vaccination rate, with 77.6 percent of residents over the age of 65 vaccinated and 47.4 percent of those 18 and older, according to the CDC. The CDC also lists Anchorage as a “high community transmission” area due to its population and its classification as a metropolitan area, but as Leeds says, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The CDC considers Anchorage as a high community transmission area but when this past holiday season came around and families were gathering, our COVID-19 case count actually plummeted,” said Leeds. “The assertive work the health department has been doing through mask mandates, travel restrictions and public health interventions has most certainly had a big part in limiting the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community.”
Leeds said the UAB School of Nursing prepared her for her career, and especially the COVID-19 pandemic, by allowing her to get plenty of hands on experience at UAB Hospital.
“The depth and variety of clinical experiences that I had in my time attending clinicals at UAB Hospital really prepared me for my nursing career,” said Leeds. “I think it is really special that the School of Nursing has the ability to give aspiring nurses that experience and I know many other nurses who graduated from the various programs within the School of Nursing feel the same way.”
As Anchorage looks to move COVID-19 Case Investigation duties to other community partners, Leeds is looking forward to resuming her role as a public health nurse within the Reproductive Health Clinic where she assisted the Anchorage community by providing birth control, cancer screenings, pregnancy support services, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and much more.
“I haven’t seen the clinic since June of last year, so I am excited to jump back in there and help provide our community with the exceptional services our clinic has to offer,” said Leeds.