This week’s Hometown Hero, presented by Hendrick Southpoint, is Orange County Health Department director Quintana Stewart.

For the last 10 months, Stewart has been in charge of Orange County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has coordinated with numerous government officials, kept residents safe, worked to enact new health guidelines and organized free COVID-19 testing throughout the county.

“I really just want to give a shoutout to all of our county departments because we have been working tirelessly over the last few weeks,” said Stewart.

When UNC prepared to bring back thousands of students to Chapel Hill in the fall, Stewart called upon the university to begin the semester with classes online due to the spread of the virus. She said Chapel Hill and Orange County could “quickly become” a new hot spot for cases as students began to interact in a manner normal for college students in a congregate setting.

In-person classes at UNC lasted one week before an outbreak of COVID-19 caused the university to move shift classes virtually.

Stewart is also overseeing the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County. North Carolina is currently in Phase 1 of the distribution, which prioritizes healthcare workers and residents over the age of 75. While the majority of residents will have to wait to get the vaccine, Stewart urged them to keep abiding by health and safety guidelines.

“Residents in Orange County have done a great job and I think they should be proud of themselves and I just implore them to hang in there,” she said.

In the most recent update from state health officials, Orange County is currently only one of four counties in North Carolina where the spread of COVID-19 is listed as “significant” as compared to “substantial” or “critical.”

Stewart was quick to praise the team around her at the county’s Health Department.

“I feel very fortunate to have such a strong team at the Orange County Health Department. I never feel like I’m shouldering all of this alone,” she said. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.