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2021 was a year of forging community partnerships, ensuring health equity and educating lawmakers, community stakeholders and the public, of the vital role local health departments play in emergency preparedness planning. At the onset of the new year, many were hopeful that FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines would bring a foreseeable end to the pandemic as well as social distancing and gathering restrictions. At the same time, NYSACHO members were awaiting space to fully focus on provision of core public health services they are responsible for providing to communities. The delta and omicron variants, however, had other plans for everyone, and local health departments persisted in their mission to increase vaccination rates by educating communities on the benefits of vaccination while at the same time countering misinformation; holding mass points of dispensing (PODs); organizing special vaccination clinics to ensure equity and advocating for open eligibility of various populations to receive vaccine. NYSACHO’s 2021 Annual Report summarizes the work the NYSACHO team did throughout 2021 to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts employed by local health departments, as well as our advocacy work and key successes in other programmatic areas.
The public health reinvestment and emergency pandemic adaptability, readiness, and efficiency (PREPARE) act is designed to increase the infrastructural state funding supporting local health departments’ provision of the core public health services needed to provide a base level of protection to the communities they serve. State reinvestment in the funding for local health departments will help retain and sustain a responsive, skilled public health workforce necessary to take prompt action in public health emergencies. Over the past decade, the local public health workforce has decreased by one-third while public health emergencies have been increasing. Click here to learn more about the PREPARE ACT.
The year 2020 presented challenges that many considered inconceivable, but local health departments have been preparing for an outbreak like COVID-19 for years. Throughout the year, local health departments worked seven days a week to coordinate PPE distribution, set up testing sites, support persons under quarantine and isolation, inform the public, and so much more. As the membership association for local health departments, the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) has played a prominent role in bringing visibility to the work conducted by our members during COVID-19. NYSACHO’s 2020 Annual Report summarizes the work the NYSACHO team did throughout 2020 to support COVID-19 mitigation and response efforts employed by local health departments, as well as our advocacy work and key successes in other programmatic areas. The report also features a letter from NYSACHO President, Dr. Kevin D. Watkins, and Executive Director, Sarah Ravenhall, our 2020 Financial Report, and a thank you letter to NYSACHO members from the NYSACHO team.
Since the first case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in New York on March 1st, 2020, New York’s local health departments (LHDs) have worked around the clock fighting the highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease on the front lines of public health in their communities. LHDs have extensive experience in investigating communicable disease outbreaks, planning and conducting exercises and drills for public health emergencies, and inspecting and monitoring restaurants, hotels, and other facilities which prepared them to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding their experience and preparedness, LHDs faced considerable challenges in their pandemic response, including crippling staff and funding deficits; limited supplies of PPE and testing kits; the absence of a statewide communicable disease data system robust enough to handle the unprecedented number of COVID-19 cases in the state; and communication obstacles with the New York State Department of Health and state leaders. Notable strengths included intra-governmental activities, meaning support from county leadership and coordination with other county agencies (such as social service departments); coordination with schools, hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities; contact tracing and case investigations; and the use of CommCare (the NYSDOH software program introduced in May 2020 to manage COVID-19 cases in a single, statewide system) as a case investigation and contract tracing data system.
From May to July 2020, NYSACHO and the Region 2 Public Health Training Center, a training and technical assistance resource for the public health workforce in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, led an In Progress Review of LHDs’ response efforts to COVID-19. The purpose of this exercise was to identify and describe lessons learned from LHD responses throughout the first months of COVID-19. These lessons learned then informed a series of recommended actions for LHDs, county governments, and the State.
Novel Coronavirus – Dr. Howard Zucker – March 13, 2020