Public health combines many different disciplines to prevent and mitigate health risks in the general public. Our work is aimed at keeping our communities healthy and safe through education, awareness and promotion of healthy and active living, implementation of health policy to prevent injuries, regulation of food service, and promotion of vaccination and other methods of controlling infectious disease. This work is often unnoticed until there is a public health emergency.
I think we can all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has truly shed light on what public health is and the important role it plays in all our lives and our community. As we move into the twentieth month since COVID-19 made its way into Kern County, I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for each and every Kern County Public Health employee.
I have always known that Kern County Public Health employed a tremendous group of people who truly cared about Kern County, but to the extent that these amazing individuals have gone above and beyond to serve their community during these unprecedented times makes me so proud. Not knowing what each day would bring, this group of incredible people has shown up each and every day ready to tackle any challenge and prepared to adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 environment.
Throughout this pandemic, with a team of roughly 400 people, the department has provided COVID-19 case management to nearly 150,000 Kern County residents, implemented a COVID-19 vaccine infrastructure, operated a mass vaccination clinic, coordinated countywide COVID-19 testing availability, distributed personal protective equipment to the medical community, assisted with hospital medical staffing during times of surge, launched a data dashboard with real-time local case information, managed the pre-hospital emergency medical services system, served as liaisons for schools and businesses in interpreting state policies, provided vaccinations in the homes of our homebound residents, launched a robust educational campaign, implemented a robust infection control program in our skilled nursing facilities, and operated a COVID-19 information hotline. These amazingly dedicated civil servants have and continue to tirelessly devote themselves to protecting our community and controlling the spread of this novel disease.
Furthermore, the healthcare infrastructure in Kern County is extraordinary. All 10 acute care hospitals in Kern County meet regularly, collaborating to ensure the best level of patient care is provided to patients during times of surge. As the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out, more than 100 healthcare agencies and pharmacies stepped up and volunteered to vaccinate our community. As we started planning for our mass vaccination site at the fairgrounds, we knew we couldn’t take on such a tremendous operation without staffing and logistical support from others. We asked our ounty department partners for assistance, and without hesitation many stepped up to help. Community partners were happy to collaborate to assist with targeted outreach, education, testing and vaccination efforts to ensure all Kern County residents were reached equitably.
While this disease has plagued us for almost two years and has had tragic impacts on many, this pandemic has demonstrated the commitment of the incredible team at Kern County Public Health to our community. When I think of heroes, the first people who come to mind is the many men and women who work for Kern County Public Health and our healthcare workers.
Brynn Carrigan is the director of Kern County Public Health Services.
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