A day in the life
For over two months now, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have been all hands-on deck to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to share the behind the scenes work done day-to-day in order to prevent, respond, and mitigate the spread of SARS CoV-2 throughout our community. Here’s “A Day in the Life of a Communicable Disease Director”:
Each day, I wake up to review the new positive cases that we received the previous evening. Then I head into two virtual meetings with our team – the first is a meeting of our disease response team. We have our epidemiological staff focused on case investigations, contact tracing, testing, and outbreaks. Together, we review cases and outbreaks, plan our response, and determine an action plan for the day. Responding to and supporting positive cases is a primary way to contain and mitigate the disease. My second meeting is with a wider team of our health department staff and partner organizations that represent our Incident Command System (ICS) – our emergency response.
On this call, we direct the overall public health response to COVID-19. We hear from the Safety Officer, Community Liaison, Public Information Officer, Emergency Planner, Public Health Nurses, Logistics Coordinator, Operations Director, Epidemiology Team, and our partners from the State Police, Near Southwest Preparedness Alliance, and Medical Reserve Corp.
Weekly, I meet with the regional government leaders to provide updates, direction, and troubleshoot concerns in each of our communities. We consider issues such as how to handle the Governor’s Executive Orders and support our companies trying to implement public health guidance.
I may visit a health department, attend a statewide meeting on COVID-19 or meet with workers in a site where there is a COVID-19 outbreak. Here, our team of public health nurses may be fit-testing staff or testing patients or workers. Our epidemiologists provide guidance about ways to contain disease such as personal protective equipment and social distancing, and quarantine and isolation for contacts to the exposure. We aim to support managers and staff at an outbreak site but no one really wants to have to deal with an outbreak. It takes us working together to mitigate the effects of an outbreak. Our goal is always to reduce the risk for the most people.
Every day I read volumes of research, guidelines, and emails. I field complaints. Weekly, I connect with all media partners who have questions about case numbers, deaths, hospitalizations, and testing. I try to provide clear, honest, and accurate information to our press and listen to their questions which reflect the public’s questions. I explain the outbreaks that have occurred in facilities and sites where social distancing is difficult – primarily in congregate living facilities and worksites. I explain what changing numbers mean.
While our cases are increasing, the Commonwealth is reopening as part of the Governor’s Forward Virginia plan. I reiterate that staying at home and social distancing efforts have largely reduced viral transmission in our community for the last three months, but as we reopen more vigilance is required for adherence to social distancing, use of cloth face coverings, and good hand hygiene. We risk additional outbreaks and the continued spread of disease. This will almost certainly cost us additional lives.
I rest knowing our team of public health professionals is working diligently with our community partners to apply the best information to our community’s response to this pandemic.
Please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus or call our health department’s call center if you have any questions or concerns: 1-855-949-8378, open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Director of Communicable Disease