Florida Department of Health in Marion County staff members were recently recognized by a national public health membership group for the innovative ways that they responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) has invited these staff members to present their projects at the group’s national conference, which is being held on Tuesday, July 19 through Thursday, July 21 in Atlanta.
Lori Tremmel Freeman, NACCHO CEO, said, “Local health departments throughout the country are doing extraordinary and groundbreaking work in keeping their communities safe, especially during the ongoing pandemic. We’re so pleased to be able to showcase in poster sessions at NACCHO 360 the dynamic projects created by FDOH-Marion’s team, whose models will inspire others.”
Here is a list of the FDOH-Marion staff members who were invited to Atlanta, along with details on the projects that they will present:
- Mandy Spangler, Clorice Senno, and Justin Travieso: They developed a shareable but secure data portal that allowed officials at FDOH-Marion and Marion County Public Schools to trade updates about the spread of the virus in schools, nearly in real time. The portal significantly streamlined communications between the department and the school system and produced more timely policies and reactions to the outbreak.
- Tammie Durden and Tracey Sapp: They engineered FDOH-Marion’s “Call Center” to provide information and a calming influence. With the center, FDOH-Marion provided actual people, locally based and available around the clock, to answer questions and provide information about COVID-19. During 2020 and 2021, the center fielded more than 133,000 inquires.
- Mary Anne Jackson, Kelly Conklin, and Essence Hernandez: Before the start of the 2020-21 school year, FDOH-Marion staff members were confronted with the task of providing hundreds of schoolchildren with required vaccines while keeping the public safe, specifically by abiding by the CDC’s social-distancing guidelines. Jackson, Conklin, and Hernandez utilized “Smart Call,” which used a pager-like technology for cellphones. Smart Call notified families when they could enter FDOH-Marion to receive immunizations. That allowed staff to isolate those families with nurses while maintaining distancing rules and safety for the general public.
- Tammie Durden, Christy Jergens, and Melissa Marino: One issue during the pandemic was serving homebound county residents who were acutely vulnerable to the virus and were unable to attend mass vaccination events. Using a Geographic Information Systems program, these staff members created a system to plot clusters of homebound patients in the same vicinity and dispatched paramedics from both Ocala Fire Rescue and Marion County Fire Rescue to those areas. This led to over 100 homebound patients receiving vaccinations.
Mark Lander, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, said, “Few of us, in our country or our community, have seen a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, that presented some difficult challenges that needed to be resolved quickly to keep the community as safe as possible. Our staff responded with some great ideas about how to fix those situations, and I am very proud that NACCHO has recognized their work.”