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MANSFIELD — The Richland Public Health Department continues to be a vital resource to community members as they get through the pandemic.
“This particular incident, even though nobody ever knows how severe these things are going to be, is something that we’ve been planning for and regularly rehearse for when this type of event happens,” said Richland Public Health spokesman Reed Richmond.
Richland Public Health, as a group, prepares for pandemics; for health emergencies, all the time, coordinating with the police, fire departments, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.
Public Health nurses are still doing virtual appointments, contact tracing and following up twice a day on a daily basis with people who may have come in contact with someone affected by COVID-19.
Plumbers are still doing virtual inspections on restaurants and making sure the facilities are up to date and following the current, proper code.
“All of these people are coordinating their efforts for when something like this happens so that we do have things prepared so we can do the best job we possibly can to keep the residents of Richland County healthy,” Reed said.
Richland Public Health Commissioner Sarah Humphrey has been working tirelessly with leaders in the community to ensure that their agencies and services are protected while still being able to serve the needs of the community.
Humphrey, who’s only been in her position since February, immediately jumped in where she could as COVID-19 made its way to the U.S. and eventually Ohio. Since then, she’s been building relationships with businesses that have questions about how to protect their employees and how to stay in compliance with the stay-at-home order.
“I guess nothing can build a relationship stronger and quicker than in the midst of a pandemic,” she said with a laugh.
Humphrey’s also been meeting with civic groups, hosting webinars and working more closely with the school systems to help them determine graduation plans.
Although there’s even more stringent work to be done, Humphrey feels lucky to be able to work with an excellent group of people every day and continue their efforts in keeping Richland County residents safe.
“It has been quite an introduction to the community, which I would not choose to be in any other community than this one,” Humphrey said.
Through the entire pandemic, Humphrey said it’s definitely been an all hands on deck team effort.
“It really has pulled this group of already close working individuals into a much more reliance on each other,” she said. “It shows the loyalty that these individuals have for their community and believing in the public health efforts that we do on a daily basis.”
The WIC program has also been an essential need to families in Richland County.
Every three months, an allotment of three months of food is allocated to the WIC card, which eligible parents have taken advantage of during COVID-19, according to WIC Director Tina Picman.
“I think that those eligible families are liking this new set up that we have in terms of saving them time and making it a little more convenient for them,” Picman said.
The WIC office in Richland County currently serves 1,938 participants and 556 in Ashland County. They are still hoping anyone who qualifies for their services will reach out for assistance.
In terms of being able to receive food on their WIC card, it needs to be physically brought to the office so that an employee can load food onto it. Due to wanting to limit the amount of contact with the participants to keep them safe and to keep employees safe, families must wait outside in their cars to receive service. WIC appointments are also done over the phone.
“It’s a good service to moms who have kids and can’t afford to get out of the car and come into the WIC office,” Picman said.
WIC nutritional products include: milk, eggs, iron fortified cereals, 100% fruit juice, whole grains, dried and canned beans and fresh fruits.
With a good response to the new way they’ve been doing business, Picman wants to continue to get the word out that WIC is open and ready to serve people.
“A lot of time public health is not really recognized for all of the great things we do… and we are in charge of making a lot really important decisions, and maybe not all of those decisions will be very well received, but we are all out there, we’re all on the front lines, continuing to provide service. And the bottom line is we need to protect the citizens of Richland County in every way we can,” Picman said.