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10 to Watch: Nina Oliver

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Rowan County Public Health Director Nina Oliver has been leading the local pandemic response since March. And with a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon for many, Oliver said she’s hopeful for some relief and a “bright spot right around the corner.”

Oliver has been named among the Post’s “10 to Watch” list for 2021.

A few months after the birth of daughter Charlie, Oliver returned from maternity leave in March to a global pandemic that had just reached Rowan County. Since then, her days have been consumed with leading the county’s COVID-19 response as public health director on top of being a mother to 1-year-old Charlie and 9-year-old Chase.

The county health department, in conjunction with the county’s Emergency Management Department, has provided free COVID-19 testing to local residents every week since the summer, worked with local leaders and local media outlets to disperse information about the pandemic and overseen contact tracing. But with the approval of two COVID-19 vaccinations last month, the response is shifting to vaccine distribution, which is currently underway.

Though the distribution requires “all hands on deck,” Oliver will still oversee the distribution throughout 2021 — and she’s hopeful it’ll provide relief for many who have lost loved ones and endured the impacts of the pandemic. So far, some members of the county health department, local veterans, health care workers, first responders and law enforcement officials have received the first of two doses of the vaccine.

Who would play you in a movie? Shirley Chisholm. She was passionate, driven and a catalyst for change. I can also see Tracee Ellis Ross. She’s quirky, exuberant and dedicated to her craft.

What would you want for your last meal? Salmon, crab legs, lobster and a bowl of candy corn for dessert

What’s your biggest personal hope and challenge for 2021? My personal hope is that 2021 is better than 2020. It’s been a tough year for many, and I’m hoping some relief or a bright spot is just around the corner. The biggest challenge is still COVID-19. Rates and cases are skyrocketing. I know countless people who have been impacted and lost loved ones to this virus. I lose sleep worrying about it and how to effectively manage it. Not only that, but COVID continues to impact the community in countless other ways such as significant increases in opioid overdoses, depression, joblessness and many other issues.

Who’s a person you’ll be watching in 2021? Probably Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC and President-Elect Joe Biden

If you won $10 million, how would you spend it? A large portion would be donated to organizations such as Prevent Child Abuse, March of Dimes, research for HIV/AIDS, and organizations that support health equity, mental health wellness and prevention of premature births and deaths especially in women of color. A large donation would also be provided to Crisis Assistance programs to help people who struggle with basic needs. I would also support a robust plan and program to assist folks who struggle with substance use. I would pay off all of my mother’s bills and buy her dream home. I would also purchase a home for my family, take a 3-week vacation on an isolated island and put the remaining in savings.

What’s your reaction to being named as one of the Post’s 10 to watch? Surprised, honored, grateful, thankful and excited



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