Tuneberg was hired in late March to replace an email entrepreneur, Matt Blumberg, who had no prior public health experience but who had been recruited by Gov. Jared Polis to scale up the state’s testing effort.
Instead, the state fell well behind its neighbors in the rate of tests performed, a critical metric in the early weeks of the pandemic. After Blumberg returned to New York, Tuneberg took over.
She remembers in late March making breakfast for her kids on a Sunday when got a call from Brad Feld, a venture capitalist and friend of Polis.
“He called and said, ‘Gov. Polis is putting together this innovation response team. He thinks it’d be really interesting. We need to sort of have lots of tools in the toolbox because this looks like it’s going to be an unprecedented pandemic. Are you interested in supporting?’ And two hours later, I was at the emergency operations center,” said Tuneberg.
What was supposed to be a job for a few weeks turned into nine months.
Tuneberg, a consultant with a background in tech, public health and emergency management, won the respect of local public health officials for expanding the state’s testing capacity, enlisting more private companies and communicating changes more effectively to counties than had previously been the case.
CDPHE director Jill Hunsaker Ryan also praised Tuneberg’s work.
“For the past nine months, Sarah Tuneberg has led the scaling of the state’s testing and containment strategies and has been incredibly effective in this role,” Ryan said in a statement. “When she accepted the position, I knew it might not be for the long term, but I am grateful for her service and she will always have a home at CDPHE.”