Recognizing Olmsted County Public Health workers for National Public Health Week

Public health agencies work year-round every year to keep our communities safe and healthy. But public health is sometimes invisble work, with many hands working behind the scenes. Over the past year during the pandemic, the importance of public health has been brought to light.

Posted: Apr 7, 2021 6:15 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2021 10:36 PM

OLMSTED COUNTY, Minn. - National Public Health Week is April 5th-11th, and KIMT News 3 is highlighting some Olmsted County Public Health workers who play important roles in the community.

Public health agencies work year-round every year to keep our communities safe and healthy. But public health is sometimes invisble work, with many hands working behind the scenes. Over the past year during the pandemic, the importance of public health has been brought to light.

"I'm just excited post-pandemic for this new world for public health," says epidemiologist Meaghan Sherden. During the pandemic, a key part of her job is collecting, recording, sharing, and analyzing COVID-19 data. Because of all the planning and training OCPH does for major health threats, she feels the transition into COVID response has been pretty seamless. Sherden is excited the pandemic has created an awareness of just how prevalent public health work is in our communities. She's even been speaking with college students interested in a career in the field because they learned about it over the course of the last year.

While you may recognize public health's role in testing for, vaccinating against, and collecting information on the Coronavirus, emergency preparedness and response is just one facet of the job. Public health has a hand in everything from food insecurity, to walkability in our cities, to environmental hazards, and more. "It will be really interesting to see as we move through this, the more interest, the more understanding, and I think it just benefits our community that people know what public health is and what we're here to help with," says Sherden.

We have all learned how to work differently, interact differently, and go to school differently during the pandemic, just to name some examples. For Olmsted County Public Health workers, some of their job roles have completely changed during the pandemic.

"It was a quick pivot, that's for sure," chuckles Christa Seymour. Pre-pandemic, she worked with area schools as a public health nurse. With less than 24 hours noticed, she learned she'd be trained as a contract tracing investigator. Her team interviews people who have tested positive for the virus, finds out where they've been and who they've been around, and provide any resources they may need for food or housing while they quarantine. Seymour hopes when the pandemic is behind us, people will still recognize that public health is here to keep the community healthy and safe. "To be that face that the students recognize and know. 'I remember my public health nurse, she came in and taught us about whatever it may be... I need help. I want to reach out and connect and see if she can help me with a situation i'm currently in,'" she explains.

Community health specialist Abby Tricker has also shifted to a new role. She's a part OCPH's health promotions team, but has mainly been working on the covid information line during the pandemic. Answering calls and questions was at times stressful early on in the pandemic, because information was changing often. Sometimes callers needed answers, and sometimes they just needed to feel heard by someone. Tricker is proud of the work she and fellow public health employees have done over the last year. "I feel even more proud of the work we're doing throughout this response just knowing that we saved lives and that we're doing is making an impact and it's being recognized," she says.

Collaboration has also been key to successfully responding to COVID-19 in Olmsted County. "One important thing I've learned is that we can't do it on our own," says Tricker. The call line was first run by solely public health employees, but they quickly became overwhelmed.

That's when the Rochester Public Library and other community partners came in, to help take some of the burden off of OCPH. The library has always been involved in the city's emergency operations planning. In 2020, that plan had to go into effect.

"People had questions. Lots of questions. And who can they trust the most to answer those questions? Your local librarian. It gave meaningful work for people to do at home and some of us were medically vulnerable and being able to work frontline really wasnt an option. Instead, we're working frontline on the phones," explains Kimberly Edson. She's head of reader services at the Rochester Public Library, but has been managing the COVID information line during the pandemic. Librarians are skilled at scouring the web and other resources for information, making them a great option to help with the call intake.

Since the call line's inception, library workers have handled roughly 6,500 calls. County workers have managed around 3,100. The call line has helped thousands of individuals get important information.

Though the workers we spoke to hope the next health crisis our community may face is not in the near future, they feel they've learned invaluable lessons over the last year that will help them respond to future emergencies.

As we move closer to a new normal, public health will help with pandemic recovery and addressing issues like mental health and delayed care. Once the threat of COVID-19 is behind us, these workers hope Olmsted County citizens remember public health is a resource to keep them healthy and safe, even when we're not fighting a global pandemic.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 537828

Reported Deaths: 7010
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1120831667
Ramsey46402845
Dakota40949413
Anoka37022412
Washington24118273
Stearns20436213
St. Louis16304294
Scott15379115
Wright14242124
Olmsted1254095
Sherburne1011078
Carver938642
Clay763489
Rice7373100
Blue Earth674440
Kandiyohi617079
Crow Wing586986
Chisago533848
Otter Tail529373
Benton515896
Mower445032
Winona434149
Douglas430270
Goodhue428271
Nobles395747
Morrison380358
McLeod378354
Beltrami364257
Polk358566
Isanti356859
Itasca356051
Steele344614
Becker341548
Lyon341048
Carlton321052
Freeborn318529
Pine304621
Nicollet297342
Brown288439
Mille Lacs268147
Todd264030
Le Sueur263722
Cass240326
Meeker226037
Waseca225320
Martin208429
Wabasha19793
Roseau192418
Dodge16774
Hubbard166841
Renville166743
Redwood162735
Houston161814
Cottonwood151320
Fillmore15009
Pennington148419
Chippewa143436
Faribault141019
Wadena139120
Sibley131210
Aitkin125836
Watonwan12419
Kanabec124021
Rock120618
Jackson112310
Yellow Medicine108018
Pipestone106925
Murray10119
Pope9816
Swift96918
Marshall83417
Stevens78910
Lake77719
Wilkin75212
Clearwater75014
Koochiching73611
Lac qui Parle72922
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5502
Grant5378
Norman5109
Mahnomen4888
Unassigned48278
Kittson43622
Red Lake3796
Traverse3585
Lake of the Woods2912
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 354126

Reported Deaths: 5789
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55359596
Linn20099328
Scott18614234
Black Hawk15431306
Woodbury14733219
Johnson1379980
Dubuque12985202
Dallas1080196
Pottawattamie10574158
Story1021947
Warren546586
Clinton529789
Cerro Gordo517586
Webster506091
Sioux502173
Marshall476074
Muscatine452996
Des Moines438064
Wapello4237120
Buena Vista420740
Jasper406070
Plymouth393379
Lee366355
Marion353475
Jones291655
Henry285337
Bremer278060
Carroll277550
Crawford261539
Boone255731
Benton248755
Washington247849
Dickinson237443
Mahaska222449
Jackson216842
Kossuth211161
Clay207525
Tama206170
Delaware200239
Winneshiek191833
Page188720
Buchanan186631
Fayette182541
Cedar182223
Wright178335
Hardin178142
Hamilton176649
Harrison174473
Clayton165255
Butler161834
Mills156920
Cherokee156238
Floyd154242
Lyon153141
Poweshiek152033
Madison151719
Allamakee148951
Iowa144624
Hancock142234
Winnebago135131
Grundy134632
Cass133654
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130435
Emmet127040
Shelby126237
Appanoose125947
Louisa125848
Sac125619
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw121815
Humboldt117826
Guthrie116528
Franklin112321
Palo Alto109322
Howard102522
Unassigned10010
Montgomery99437
Clarke97923
Keokuk94230
Monroe92728
Ida88233
Adair83932
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76210
Lucas74822
Osceola73316
Worth6958
Taylor64812
Fremont60310
Decatur5889
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
Wayne51723
Audubon4909
Adams3264
Rochester/St. Mary'S
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Mason City
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Albert Lea
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Austin
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Charles City
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Drier conditions for the weekend
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