It’s been six months since the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered life in Marin County, hitting pause on daily routines and sheltering in place as a way to secure public health. Scores of County employees have played key roles during the coronavirus response that are much different from the roles they played in the pre-COVID-19 world.
More than 1,000 of those employees are Disaster Service Workers (DSWs), as are all public employees in the State of California. County employees learn of the DSW role upon accepting a government job and going through the onboarding process. They know that any sort of widespread emergency could result in them placing normal duties on hold and pivoting toward a much-needed emergency response role.
In addition, more than 100 other employees have supported Department Operation Centers (DOCs) run by the County Administrator’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services during the pandemic. These employees, from many County departments, ensure the County’s most essential services are still provided despite any emergency or disruption.
While many members of the County workforce continue in regular assignments – emergency dispatchers, firefighters, Sheriff’s deputies, probation officers, social service workers, mental health professionals, and many more – DSWs have switched gears and provided high-priority safety-net services to help residents in need. County DSWs have handled a variety of roles, such as:
- managed hotels for people experiencing homelessness;
- delivered food to the most vulnerable residents;
- assembled a robust COVID-19 testing system;
- served as community liaisons;
- learned the ins and outs of effective contact tracing;
- responded quickly to the needs of skilled nursing facilities;
- evaluated and analyzed public health data;
- ensured effective spending of limited County resources;
- staffed a call center to answer resident questions;
- shopped and delivered supplies to seniors and others with mobility limitations; and
- operated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) 24 hours a day.
All told, County DSWs have logged more than 150,000 hours thus far in response to COVID-19. Other achievements include:
- 160 DSWs contributed more than 400 hours of COVID-19 service since March;
- 14,300 calls have been answered by the DSW-staffed COVID-19 Information Line Call Center Team;
- More than 6,000 emails have been answered by the DSW-staffed COVID-19 Email Response Team.
On Sept. 15, the County and its Board of Supervisors took note of the reassigned County employees who have worked on the front lines of the emergency response effort. As the Supervisors passed a resolution in honor of the DSWs, Board President Katie Rice said employees in some ways have benefited as much as they’ve provided community assistance.
“There’s been a reward in being able to work with folks they would never have worked with before as they’ve been deployed in different service areas,” Rice said. “There have been some good strong relationships built and appreciation for each other as County employees that may not have been there before. I think that will feed and fuel us all in ways beyond disaster service work in the months and years to come.”
County Administrator Matthew Hymel told the Board he was proud and grateful for the entire County effort. Other urgent adjustments made by the County staff over the past six months included ramping up online customer service options, switching to virtual public meetings, offering online town hall forums, distributing daily coronavirus updates to text and e-subscribers, and creating the all-new MarinRecovers.com website with other local municipalities and the coronavirus.marinhhs.org website.
“Our residents look to us most when times are hard, and I have seen our employees meet the challenge every single day during this pandemic,” Hymel said. ”We’re so fortunate to have employees who have all stepped up and have done amazing work. This event has gone on longer than most emergencies, and I think it’s good that we’re taking a pause and thanking all our County employees.”