ALEXANDRIA, VA – [Editor’s Note: This letter was submitted to The Zebra Press on April 10, 2020]
I have the honor of chairing Alexandria’s Public Health Advisory Commission and in that role my fellow commissioners and I have had a unique perspective of the work of the Alexandria Health Department.
Under Dr. Steven Haering’s leadership, health department staff have been working tirelessly since becoming aware of the COVID-19 threat in late December of last year. Public health staff aren’t always who come to mind when we think of first responders, but that is truly the role they are playing in this crisis. Most of their work goes unnoticed, even at times like we are experiencing now.
Staff at our public health department prepare for, and respond to public emergencies of all kinds—Ebola, Zika, H1N1, and now, COVID-19—tracking disease outbreaks, providing timely and accurate information to other health care professionals and the general public, and offering science-based recommendations and guidance to policy makers to protect the health and well-being of the community.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in our region, Alexandria public health staff have:
- contacted and monitored those diagnosed with COVID-19 and those at -risk of infection because of exposure to someone with a confirmed case of the disease;
- developed and delivered information about the virus to health-care providers in Alexandria;
- hosted conference calls with businesses and nonprofits;
- mobilized and trained volunteers to staff a COVID-19 call center;
- provided guidance to nursing homes and child care centers;
- worked collaboratively with other City departments and Alexandria City Public Schools to inform operational decisions;
- immediately contacted over 300 restaurants about the implications of the governor’s orders regarding their business;
- conducted outreach to disadvantaged communities to ensure they have accurate and accessible information about COVID-19;
- worked closely with Inova Alexandria Hospital to address the health crisis;
Through this time the Health Department staff have continuously provided the City’s senior leadership and Council with the information they need to make the decisions necessary to protect the community’s health.
Alexandria is fortunate to have capable, committed people working in the health department. They play a vital role in keeping our community safe, not only in times of crisis like this, but every day.
Alexandria Public Health Advisory Commission