On Jan. 4, Jordan Mathis will take over as the director of the Bear River Health Department.
Mathis is currently the health officer for the TriCounty Health Department covering Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah counties, and current Director Lloyd Berentzen said his experience there made him a great fit for BRHD due to the challenges of working with local officials and different forms of government.
“It’s unique because Cache has a council government, and Box Elder and Rich are governed by commission,” Berentzen said. “TriCounty is also like that, so he has the experience that can bring people together and represent public health as well as it can be.”
Along with working with elected officials, Mathis said his experience with administering wide-scale vaccinations will help as COVID-19 vaccines are made available in the near future.
“I came from a health department that annually used the flu vaccine to exercise our capacity to vaccinate populations,” he said. “We would do what we’d call mobile flu or drive up flu clinics, where we would vaccinate as many people as possible. So I have a lot of experience working with those and actually being the commander of those events and overseeing that response.”
Though TriCounty, like Bear River, covers three counties, there are only about 56,000 residents total — roughly the same population as Box Elder County alone. Bear River oversees health programs for roughly three times as many people than TriCounty, and those numbers are reflected in active COVID-19 cases.
Bear River Health District also includes Utah State University, which helped lead to the initial second wave of the pandemic hitting the area sooner than has been seen in the TriCounty District. Mathis said that area just began to see an increase in COVID-19 cases after Halloween, though the full effect of holiday gatherings has yet to be seen throughout the state.
“I agree with Dr. Redfield from the CDC that the next few months are going to be probably pretty hard, hard months, with regards to case counts and things like that, until we get the vaccines,” He said. “We’re going to continue to see cases moving in an undesirable direction.”
Though the holidays are typically a family-oriented time of year, Berentzen said in order to prevent spread of the virus, families should stay connected virtually as much as possible.
Mathis acknowledged the “big shoes” that will be left by Berentzen — both in the pandemic and before.
“Lloyd is not only a friend of mine, but he’s been a mentor and helping me as a health officer here in TriCounty,” Mathis said. “But in our talks together, he says as soon as I feel comfortable, he’ll just kind of ride off into the sunset.”
Berentzen, who has served as director for 19 of his 34 years with BRHD, has said he’s willing to stay on as long as April 1 to aid in the transition. Similarly, Mathis will still be helping his yet-to-be-determined replacement transition at TriCounty.