Pittsboro, NC – The Chatham County Board of Health announced its award winners for 2021 during its regular board meeting on Monday, June 28, recognizing individuals and groups that played a significant role in the Chatham County community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in advancing public health. The awards were presented by Board of Health Chair Carol Reitz-Barlow.
The entire staff of the Chatham County Public Health Department was recognized as the 2021 Employee of the Year. Made up of more than 60 individuals from various disciplines, the staff has participated in many functions of COVID-19 response and COVID-19 vaccination efforts, including administering vaccines, aiding workplaces, child care facilities, schools and many other settings with virus mitigation strategies, community education and outreach, participating in Resource Hubs to provide on-the-ground support to Chatham residents, and coordinating response efforts with others in the Chatham community, all while maintaining daily departmental operations.
“Chatham County was thrust into the COVID-19 spotlight early on in the pandemic,” said Reitz-Barlow, who punctuated the award presentation with a reading of each CCPHD staff member’s name in appreciation. “Throughout the past year, the staff have worked long hours providing COVID-19 testing, vaccine distribution and administration. In the middle of the pandemic, the Public Health Department was once again thrust into the spotlight as a result of a cyber-attack. This team is amazing and Chatham County residents should be proud of them.”
“This has been a uniquely challenging time for our staff, but they have risen to the occasion time and time again,” added Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. “I am so thankful for their service to the Chatham community and department, and I am grateful to the Board of Health for recognizing their hard work and dedication with this award.”
The 2021 Partnership of the Year Award was given to the Chatham County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT works throughout the year to educate the community on disaster preparedness and support emergency response agencies, but this all-volunteer group took on a critical role in COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Under the leadership of Terry Schmidt and Andy Foshee, Chatham CERT served as the primary traffic control and logistics team at the CCPHD’s drive-through mass vaccination events in the early months of 2021, working side-by-side with staff from CCPHD and Chatham County Emergency Management, which was one of the Board of Health’s Partnerships of the Year for 2020. To prepare for these clinics, CERT volunteers attended weekly planning meetings beginning in August 2020. In addition to Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Foshee, CERT volunteer Dale Crans was present at the Board of Health meeting to receive the award. To learn more about CERT, visit its website at www.chathamcert.org.
“The partnership between Emergency Management and the Public Health Department is collaborative and unwavering,” said Reitz-Barlow. “CERT has been a great partner and has provided consistent and strong support throughout the pandemic by assisting with vaccine clinics.”
Environmental Health Director Anne Lowry, who led planning for the department’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics, wrote in a nomination letter for CERT: “Chatham County Community Emergency Response Team has been an invaluable partner during the Health Department’s mass vaccination efforts…Having CERT fulfill roles that would have taxed an already overworked Health Department staff was vital to being able to carry on our mandated public health work as well as our other COVID non-medical intervention work. I truly cannot imagine how much more difficult the clinics would have been without the partnership with CERT. Seeing firsthand how invested our community was in the success of our clinics was humbling and inspiring.”
The Chatham County Board of Health would like to congratulate all award recipients and thank the Chatham County community for its collective efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Dr. John Kessler, Pharmacist on the Board of Health, was recognized for his 11 years of service on the Board, including three years as Chair. Dr. Kessler presented his top lessons learned from his time on the Board. He is stepping down from the Board this month as his final term is expiring.