Health Department hosts Retirement Party for Ellen Leahy
After 38 years of service, Missoula City County Health Officer Ellen Leahy was the guest of honor for her retirement party at Caras Park during Out to Lunch at Caras Park on Wednesday.
This reporter looked back as Leahy and I worked together with one of the Health Department’s first media events to get people to use seat belts in the early 1980’s.
“Where you and I worked together I think really the most at the beginning was on that early seat belt campaign that we called ‘Get Caught Missoula’,” said Leahy. “You would do live broadcasts and say ‘our seat belt catchers are out today and if you get caught wearing your seat belt, you're going to get a prize’, and all of that took place live and it had an amazing effect.”
Leahy also looked back at the very first press conference on a frigid Sunday morning in March of 2020, as Missoula faced the COVID 19 pandemic.
“That seems like yesterday, and then it also seems like a long time ago at the same time,” she said. “That was a Sunday morning in early March. And of course, we knew Montana had months to see what was happening elsewhere in the world and in fact elsewhere in the in the country. So it was our opportunity to put to put in place lessons that other people in other places have learned and they got caught off guard, but Montana really didn't. “That was the announcement of our first case which was at that point, just going to be a matter of time.”
Leahy remarked on the relationship between the media and the health department during the COVID pandemic.
“The media and and all along you, Peter, and I have done such a good job from that day forward, carrying accurate information into the public and asking important questions,” she said. “I think that was kind of a start of a year and a half, and it's really not over not completely over yet.”
KGVO asked Leahy about the atmosphere at Out to Lunch at Caras Park on Wednesday, with so many people in one place with very few people wearing masks.
“We’re not wearing masks because we had met our goals of low transmission and we had met to two of our intermediate vaccination goals in the community and that's why the masks came off because it was safer, not just tired of them or for any other reason, because now it was safe to take them off,” she said. “So that was really fun.”
Leahy will spend the next few days wrapping up her work at the health department and then D’Shane Barnett will officially take over as Health Officer.
(also pictured with Leahy is CEO of St. Patrick Hospital Joyce Dombrowski)