During this Public Health Week, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to my employees who are working tirelessly day after day in our COVID-19 response. I can remember no other time when the absolute value of public health and the local health departments have been so obvious.
Before COVID-19, a few of the things my professional and support staff worked to accomplish every day were to stop the spread of disease; to ensure the hygiene of restaurants, pools, and hotels; to provide various health education programs to teens and those with Diabetes; promoted public health policy; worked with HIV patients and those with substance abuse issues; and, worked with families to assure the healthy development of children. As if all of this weren’t enough, now we are leading the charge in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
During the week beginning 3/15/20, Lake Cumberland received confirmation of its first two positive COVID-19 cases. During the week beginning 3/20/20, the total number of cumulative cases increased to 14. The week beginning 3/28/20, the number jumped to 41. Through today (4/8/20) that number stands at 62.
Over the last three and a half weeks (which feels like months), all of my employees have been asked to do new things and to face challenges for which none of them could have been fully prepared. Yet, we had emergency response plans in place and experienced, professional staff who were able to, within days, transform the Lake Cumberland District Health Department from our routine duties into a fully operational Pandemic Departmental Operations Center.
To date, we have completed 61 COVID-19 case investigations (one case passed before the investigation could start), and 571 contact investigations. We have been tasked with enforcing the Governor’s Executive Order regarding business compliance with closure and social distancing orders. We have participated in numerous press releases and media updates. We have received and helped to disperse two Strategic National Stockpile deliveries. We have provided updates via our website, social media and live YouTube broadcasts. We have hand-delivered information packets to all primary care facilities and all businesses; and, mailed a COVID-19 information postcard to all residential mailboxes. We have provided guidance to long-term care facilities, helped monitor our community medical partners’ supply of personal protective equipment, reached out to the Amish community; and, answered thousands of questions by phone, email and social media.
I am surrounded by co-workers who are selfless, dedicated, professional — and increasingly exhausted. But, we feed off each other’s energy, commitment, and the shared-knowledge that what we are doing is important and saving lives. I have every confidence we will see this COVID-19 challenge through to the end, and a few months from now we will be able to look back with the pride of knowing we made a difference.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, we have lost about half of the employee capacity we once had due to federal and state shifts in funding priorities. Wow, could we have ever used those extra employees now! Nonetheless, I couldn’t be more proud of the employees I still have. What an amazing and truly awesome team you are.
With all my heart, Happy Public Health Week.
Shawn D. Crabtree