National Public Health Week
National Public Health Week (NPHW) is April 5th through the 11th. This is the second year in a row that NPHW will be celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, an event which has defined the career of public health professionals. The theme for NPHW is “Building Bridges to Better Health”.
As we reflect on the past year, let us acknowledge and thank our Boone County Public Health Department, nurses and doctors who have served the community.
Boone County Public Health (BCPH) has played a key role in the COVID pandemic over the past year. From contact tracing, communicating and educating the public, schools, businesses and colleges, to the many long hours, they have stepped up to the plate. BCPH Director Deb Pestotnik, her nursing staff, and Public Health Medical Director Dr. Brian Mehlhaus have put in countless hours often fielding many phone calls, emails, and media requests on a daily basis, they met the challenge of COVID-19 head-on while juggling their numerous other duties without additional staff or support.
As the pandemic was evolving and rapidly changing, so did the work of local public health. Guidance and response efforts changed quickly, often with little notice, and Boone County Public Health provided guidance and interpretation of the ever changing recommendations put forth by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to individuals in the community, local businesses, schools, medical clinics, the hospital, and many more entities.
“At the start of the pandemic, it was all brand new and a little intense,” says Lori Zahnd, Home Health Care nurse. “We went from a few cases in the very beginning to dozens of cases every day, including the weekends.” The staff was investigating individuals that had COVID and were contact tracing to find out who they had been in touch with and how long ago. It was an exhausting time period until things started to ease up in November when they got some help from the State with their new Domo Live system. Deb said at that point, they were having to investigate 40 to 50 individuals a day. It helped having the States assistance, and Deb’s staff was still able to be involved. Shortly after that went live, they were planning for the vaccines in December.
Now with several vaccine clinics up and running each week, it’s full speed ahead. PH is receiving 400 doses a week and now holds three to four clinics a week; in addition, they recently received 100 doses of Johnson and Johnson. “We received small doses at first,” said Lori, “and the days were crazy busy, but now with our allotment higher, we are used to it and we are ready!”
Making communities safe and healthy is public health’s top priority. COVID-19 has made that even more important. In the midst of the most challenging public health crisis of our lifetimes, it's more important than ever to celebrate public health. Help us continue to thank public health for all the hard work everyone's doing to keep our communities safe.