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National organization recognizes DOH-Marion staff for pandemic response

By Florida Department of Health in Marion County

May 17, 2022

 

Ocala, Fla. — A national public health membership group has recognized several Department of Health in Marion County personnel for the innovative ways they tackled problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The National Association of County and City Health Officials, or NACCHO, also has invited these DOH-Marion staffers to present their projects at the group’s national conference, scheduled for July 19-21 in Atlanta. 

NACCHO CEO Lori Tremmel Freeman 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 DOH-Marion’s team, whose models will inspire others.” 

Mark Lander, administrator of the 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.” 

Here is a summary of the DOH-Marion staffers who were invited to Atlanta and the four projects they will present: 

  • Mandy Spangler, Clorice Senno and Justin Travieso. They developed a shareable but secure data portal that allowed officials at DOH-Marion and Marion County Public Schools to trade updates about the spread of the virus in schools in near-real time. The portal significantly streamlined communications between the department and the school system, and produced more timely policies and reactions to the outbreak. For example, because the data could be shared, between August 2021 and December 2021, the number of phone calls and emails between the agencies plunged 61% and 96%, respectively.
  • Tammie Durden and Tracey Sapp. Having to deal with the unprecedented demand for information about the virus, while facing a situation with more than 43,000 county residents who lacked access to a computer, they engineered DOH-Marion’s “Call Center” to provide information and a calming influence. With the center, DOH-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, DOH-Marion staff 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. They utilized “Smart Call,” which used a pager-like technology for cellphones. Smart Call notified families when they could enter DOH-Marion to receive immunizations. That allowed staff to isolate those families with nurses, 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 not only acutely vulnerable to the virus but unable to attend mass vaccination events, without further burdening an already stretched-thin DOH-Marion staff. Using a Geographic Information Systems program, they 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, saving time and resources. More than 100 patients were vaccinated this way.

About the Florida Department of Health 

The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @HealthyFla. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.

About the National Association of County and City Health Officials

Founded in 1965, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.