April 2021 Newsletter
Scaling Up to Address a Pandemic:
Lubbock Health Department Rose to the Challenge!

COVID-19 Experience by Katherine Wells,
Director, Lubbock Health Department, Lubbock, Texas

LHD training firemen in contract tracing
We are in a Pandemic! March 2020 – December 2020

Scaling the public health workforce to respond to COVID-19 is a major challenge. In February 2020, the City of Lubbock Health Department, a city of 255,000 residents, only had 25 full time public health workers and 3 staff dedicated to routine surveillance. This was well short of the projected needs to respond to COVID-19. To respond, the department needed to quickly grow the workforce first for contact tracing and then for vaccine administration.

Step 1 – Building Up Additional Workforce Capacity to Respond

The first step to build capacity was training existing health department staff. Clinics were canceled and projects were put on hold; nurses, outreach workers, programmatic staff and supervisors were all trained in contact tracing. As case numbers increased, staff were pulled from other city departments. Due to closures, staff who worked for parks, museums, libraries and the Civic Center were at risk of being laid off or having hours cut. The health department was able to absorb and train these staff. They helped with tracing, answering constantly ringing phones and data entry. Permanent health department staff became team leads and supervisors of the tracing groups. Staff who had never managed staff before became great leaders when thrusted into these roles. Some of the best contact tracers were light duty fire fighters and police officers; they were not hesitant on the phone and engaged with those whom we were tracing. In fact, some people were more cooperative when they realized they were talking to a first responder. Many officers continued to help even when they returned to full duty.

Step 2 – Expanding Capacity to Provide Relief to Current Workforce

As cases increased, we needed to add an evening shift to help continue contact tracing. Instead of making exhausted staff work longer hours, we utilized the call center staff at Lubbock Power and Light, the city-owned utility provider. Call center staff were offered overtime to work at the health department in the evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Many of these staff made great contact tracers, as handling difficult and uncooperative individuals is a regular part of their full-time job.
LHD Vaccination Hub
Vaccine Rollout! December 2020 - Present

The next staffing challenge started in December 2020 with the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines. Soon after the vaccines were released, Lubbock Health Department began receiving 5,000 doses a week. The number of vaccines quickly increased to 10,000 doses when 2nd doses became due. 

Step 1 – Ramping up the Workforce for Vaccination Hubs

Once again, our small health department needed to quickly ramp up staffing to run a large scale vaccination hub that needed close to 100 staff per day. Lubbock Fire and Rescue stepped in by dedicating a fire fighter/paramedic to coordinate volunteers and by providing about 15 firefighters--a mix of on and off duty--to help with each clinic (4 clinics per week for 18 weeks). In addition, the two major hospitals dedicated nursing staff and groups of medical students showed up to assist each day. Even retired former health department employees became involved in the efforts at the clinic.

Step 2 – Continuation of Current Workforce

City staff who were reassigned for contact tracing continued to step up. They worked in clinics, helped set up the Civic Center and kept things running at the health department when many full-time staff were needed at the clinic.
Katherine Wells, LHD Director, celebrating receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
with Texas Tech's mascot, Raider Red
Looking Forward

When the pandemic ends, Katherine Wells, Director of Public Health wants to find a way to celebrate. Nearly 500 people have helped with the COVID-19 response; they came to help public health and have learned to appreciate public health. We are thankful for their service and grateful to have these public health allies.
Upcoming Webinar:
Tactical, Operational, and Strategic IPC Planning for Mass Vaccination Sites
This 3-part webinar series will focus on infection control and mass vaccination sites. Cross-pollinating traditional clinical medicine and emergency response disciplines with exposure and environmental health sciences, including industrial hygiene, are crucial to enhancing local and state-level Emergency Support Function 8 – Public Health and Medical Services as well as the emergency management enterprise pre- and post-disaster. As such, this webinar series will feature experts in infection control, public health emergency preparedness and management, and industrial hygiene.

The first webinar, "Tactical, Operational, and Strategic IPC Planning for Mass Vaccination Sites", will be held on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. CDT. Speakers include Jeffrey Elder, MD, and Summyr Burton, MPH(c). Registration is free. To register for the webinar, please click here.
Pilot testing for our upcoming training "Data Into Action for Tribes – Conducting a Community Health Assessment" has been extended until Wednesday, April 28, 2021! Training information (including course description, learning objectives and contact hours) is listed below:

Course Description:

The purpose of this course is to provide instruction on how to conduct a community needs assessment and how to develop the needs assessment report. This course will provide basics of community assessments, describe several available toolkits for developing a community needs assessment, and describe the basics of writing up the results of the community needs assessment.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define a Community Health and Needs Assessment
  • Describe the purpose of conducting Community Health and Needs Assessments
  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of toolkits available for conducting community needs assessments

Contact hour: 1

If are interesting in testing the course, please email trdirect@tulane.edu.
Pilot testing instructions will be sent within 1 business day.
2021 Oklahoma Community Health Worker Forum Series
The Oklahoma Public Health Training Center (OPHTC) and Oklahoma Public Health Association (OPHA), specifically the OPHA CHW Section, are collaborating with Oklahoma State University’s College of Education and Human Sciences to develop and present the 2021 Oklahoma Community Health Worker Forum Series. This series presents two tracks, one for CHWs, and one for CHW stakeholders. All sessions will be held virtually. Recordings of all sessions will be accessible via the OPHTC website. For more information (including webinar topics, dates, and registration information), please click here.
Around The Region: Jefferson Parish Meal Assistance Program
In February of this year, Jefferson Parish began delivering on their meal assistance program. The PPP brought government and local restaurants together to deliver free nutritious meals to the doorsteps of seniors and the parish’s most vulnerable residents. The program is in its last week and we hope to see more partnerships like this spring up to help communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Get Healthy This Spring with 8 strategies from
8 Strategies for a Healthy Spring

Help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer with these 8 healthy habits for spring.

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Course Spotlight:

Course Description:

An effective communication plan delivers a succinct message across several channels to reach a mass audience. Learn how to tailor your health and medical message and communication channels appropriately
after a disaster.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the importance of communication during a hurricane or other disaster

  • List the principals of disaster communications

  • Describe how to use media/social media

  • Summarize the role of public health in crisis communications

For more information about
this training, please click here.
Featured Course Bundle:
Leadership Communication

After completing the Leadership Communication course bundle, learners will be able to demonstrate written and oral communication skills required for leaders in the public health setting. This bundle is designed to refresh and refine the communication skills needed to succeed in today's fast-paced and stressful public health environment.

Topics covered in the course bundle include: negotiation, conflict resolution, writing techniques, presentation skills, indirect communication styles such as facial expressions and body postures, and the use of media in times of disaster. 

Courses in the LC course bundle include:

  • Managerial Communications - 2 hours

  • Risk Communication in Public Health Emergencies - 2 hours

  • Negotiating Skills for Changing Times - 4 hours

  • Leadership Management Communication - 3 hours

  • Productive Communication Skills - 4 hours

For more information about this course bundle, please click here.
Looking for more training on a specific topic in public health? Need additional training on a current public health hot topic? We want to help you address these needs. Please email us and let us know about your current training needs/interests/issues. We will evaluate our current trainings to see if we have something that can address your area of interest. 
Email us at r6-phtc@tulane.edu.
We look forward to your feedback!