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Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail announces retirement

Linda Vail, a health officer serving Ingham County, Michigan, stands outside her house on Sept. 25, 2021. Vail says she's installed a home security system after receiving threats over her COVID-19-related orders.
Sarah Lehr
Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail stands outside her house on Sept. 25, 2021. Vail has announced her plans to retire next February.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail has announced she will step down from her position in February of next year.

After leading the county’s health department for nearly a decade, she says she feels confident about her role in helping residents navigate through the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have had the opportunity to lead through one of the most challenging times in public health and have been recognized for doing that. And I do, I feel so very honored by that," Vail said.

During the pandemic, Vail preemptively set emergency orders in place to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. These orders included the continued use of masks indoors and limiting gathering sizes.

She says the stress of trying to lead Ingham County though the pandemic took such a big toll on her health that she developed post traumatic stress disorder.

"I wake up many mornings with an anxiety attack, or sometimes even a panic attack, and I need to do some self care and some recovery from that and relax and come down off of that." she said. "And it's hard to do that when you're still just pushing hard every day, and sometimes dealing with the next crisis that comes your way."

As the county's health officer, Vail led a department of 400 people with a $56 million dollar budget.

"I have got so much appreciation for this community, and how they have have been grateful for what I have done," she said. "I have an amazing, amazing team here. And what I have done, I could not have done it without an amazing team of people that are with me every day."

Reflecting on her time in the department, Vail says she hopes Ingham County residents are left with an accurate understanding of the role of public health.

"Public health work is very much about prevention, saving people's lives, keeping people from getting ill, protecting people in any number of ways," she said. "And also, it's very much about equity and justice, and making sure that we eliminate barriers to access."

Following her retirement, Vail says she plans to stay in Lansing while working in the public health sector in some capacity and to spend time traveling with her partner of many years.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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