Each year, during the first full week of April, communities across the country come together to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving the health of the nation. Ironically, this year National Public Health Week (NPHW) came and went with little celebration because Nevada County Public Health was deeply engaged in responding to a the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevada County traditionally takes the time during NPHW to celebrate the Public Health staff. Time is taken to highlight and celebrate them because much of their work goes largely unseen throughout the year. For example, health educators work to ensure that children received oral health screenings and follow-up treatment or helped an apartment complex adopt a smoke-free policy that will improve and protect the health of all of its current and future residents; suicide prevention staff held trainings throughout the County to help others know how to identify the signs of someone who may be considering suicide and what actions to take; Vital Records staff may have compassionately provided a death certificate to a grief-stricken person; nurses have administered life-saving vaccines to young children; other nurses have worked to ensure that children were at lower risk to lead exposures, that someone received family planning services, or that someone with a communicable disease received the treatment they need and education and to prevent the further spread of a disease. Nevada County Public Health has just over 30 staff and about as many programs, so it is difficult to list everything that is accomplished each year.
Since February, however, everyone’s work has changed. Public Health staff have been working an extraordinary number of hours, demonstrating their commitment to the County, and almost all staff have been pulled from their regular roles to help support the PH response to this recent outbreak. Nurses are providing caring and compassionate support to those who are in quarantine or isolation; emergency preparedness staff is working with all of our health care partners to ensure their and their patients safety as well as be responsive to first responders night and day; The Public Health analyst is now running a mini warehouse, both receiving and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care providers, and our health educators are delivering the PPE all across the County; two other health educators are responding to an overwhelming number of community inquiries answering questions about essential versus nonessential services; the Director of Nursing is filming videos and participating in radio interviews to help keep the public informed; and the County epidemiologist continues to do what she does but under much more dire circumstances.
The Public Health staff’s impactful work is largely unrecognized, yet staff continue without complaint, working to ensure that Nevada County does what it can to help prevent disease, promote healthy environments and protect against possible public health disasters. For all the work done every day and for the extraordinary work done during this public health emergency, Nevada County wholeheartedly thanks the Public Health staff and recognize them for the heroes they are.