Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
There’s a new face leading the Johnson County Public Health Department, but one that Washington County residents might recognize.
Danielle Pettit-Majewski was hired into the role as the Johnson County Public Health director last month to fill a vacancy created when former director Dave Koch stepped down in November after a bike accident.
In the midst of that continued community response to the pandemic, Pettit-Majewski says she plans to focus on the needs of the department’s public health employees, who are feeling burned out after being in emergency mode for the 18 months and counting.
“Public health professionals as a whole are exhausted,” she said. “My goal is to try to help the staff feel like they’re in a secure position to be able to do good work and for me to provide some of that supportive leadership.”
Pettit-Majewski was appointed to the $122,000-a-year position by the Johnson County Board of Health at its July 21 meeting. She previously served as the Washington County Public Health director for more than eight years. Before joining Washington County’s department in March 2013, she worked at the family practice clinic at the Waverly Health Center in Waverly.
Pettit-Majewski graduated with a master’s degree in public health from the University of Iowa in 2010. She also attended the university for her bachelor’s degree in biology.
During her undergraduate studies, Pettit-Majewski initially intended to pursue a career as a genetic counselor. However, after taking a course that discussed a program meant to prevent child abuse, she said she realized she wanted a role in public health.
“I wanted to go into a practice where I could focus on prevention, to help before the hurt,” she said.
Pettit-Majewski steps into her new role as public health officials in Johnson County and across the state prepare for another surge in new cases and hospitalizations, largely driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all but six counties in Iowa were experiencing a high level of community transmission as of last week.
Public health officials across the state are experiencing a feeling of defeat as they anticipate this new COVID-19 wave, as well as heartbreak knowing it was preventable, Pettit-Majewski said.
“We need to make sure that public health professionals are getting the resources that they need so that they can continue to be a resource for the community,” she said.
Johnson County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, with nearly 60 percent of the total population inoculated against the virus.
Despite that, Pettit-Majewski is concerned the county could see an increase in new cases as students return to class at the University of Iowa and then K-12 schools — particularly since masks and other mitigation measures are no longer required.
“The virus does what it will do, regardless of how we feel about it,” she said. “The more opportunity a virus has to spread, the more ability it has to mutate, and so I do have concern about the efficacy of our vaccine long-term.”
Pettit-Majewski encouraged everyone who’s eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines to get inoculated. She also encouraged everyone to follow safety guidelines emphasized throughout this pandemic, including masking in public spaces, social distancing when possible and washing hands frequently.