Public Health Director Sue Hansen

2020 Dillonaire Individual
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Sue Hansen
Busy schedule

Beaverhead County Health Director Sue Hansen’s life became considerably more busy in 2020 with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hansen handled the sometimes contentious work load with grace and dignity. At right, Hansen supervised a free COVID testing clinic, and that afternoon attended a public health board meeting (above). J.P. Plutt photos

One of the few things everyone in this community can agree on is that they are tired of hearing about COVID-19.

Day in and day out, we all watched as total cases and death counts climbed as the unknown pathogen swept the globe. Medical providers on the front lines turned their expertise to caring for individuals filling hospitals infected with a disease they had no knowledge of how to treat. These heroic efforts were personified by area doctors, nurses and other health care professionals – especially the local face of the pandemic, Beaverhead County Public Health Director Sue Hansen.

Hansen, a registered nurse, began the year reminding residents to get their flu shots, a virus that sickens millions annually nationwide. Those reminders quickly switched to sharing the latest information about the new coronavirus. Hansen and her staff dutifully highlighted facts while quietly preparing for its arrival in Beaverhead County.

It is hard to overstate the patience the threeperson team at Beaverhead County Public Health have summoned since the end of March when the county tallied its first positive COVID case. Through hourslong public meetings, endless pushback and outright rage from residents venting their frustrations, Hansen explained how all of us could do our part to protect our community. She and her colleagues did so calmly and repeatedly, despite hostility and defiance of simple precautions.

Eight Beaverhead County residents have died from COVID-19, and nearly 800 have been infected. Those numbers are small compared to the more than 300,000 Americans who have died nationwide, increasing by roughly 3,000 a day from the virus.

When our residents succumbed, Hansen’s task was to inform the public, adding to an impersonal tally that tells nothing about the people we have lost. Some health care professionals statewide resigned, exhausted from endless hours and lack of local support.

County health care professionals face similar obstacles, yet come in every day and begin again. Hansen and her team persevered as new coronavirus vaccines began distribution just weeks ago nationwide. While it could take months before that vaccine is widely available, we feel confident Hansen will be at the helm, leading Beaverhead County public health when we defeat COVID-19.