Kevin Hall was bracing for a pandemic months before most of us ever heard of Covid-19.
The Georgetown resident is the Communications Officer for the Lexington Fayette County Health Department.
“Once it hit Washington state, we needed to be ready,” he said.
The team at the health department have an emergency preparedness clinic every year but the onslaught of the disease found some workers pulling 12 to 15 hour shifts. Even meals had to be provided.
As part of his job Hall is often the face and voice of the health department. But, he said, there are so many people whose work is unseen.
“It’s not just what you see on the surface, there is so much that is going on. The bulk is what is going on behind the scenes,” he said.
Former Lexington health commissioner Dr. Rice Leach had a habit of reading — and talking about — historic records of the department going back 100 years. Hall said that helped him recognize that what health departments do in this moment may help determine what happens in the future.
“It doesn’t escape us that we are living through a piece of history,” he said.
To help the staff deal with stress Hall said the department set up a phone call town hall and brought a mental health counselor on board who laid out the symptoms of emotional stress and burn out.
“I immediately checked off four or five things,” he said.
But, he said, the counselor suggested co-workers make a point to sometimes talk about something other than the virus like pets or family.
“It’s a time to just check in and talk about things that aren’t COVID related,” he said.
The health department also has a stringent plan of testing of employees in place and Hall found himself with a fever. He was immediately sent home and told to self-quarantine away from his wife and small son.
“It was terrifying,” Hall said.
And heartbreaking. His son would sit outside the door and cry.
“I just had to say…sorry buddy,” he said.
Fortunately, Hall didn’t have the virus. But that experience reinforced his already staunch belief in the need for preventative measures.
“This is our new reality,” he said, “for however much longer.”
Hall said it is a nice pick-me-up when he walks into the Kroger in Georgetown and people are social distancing.
“I just want to run up and hug them,” he said. “I can’t because of social distancing…and also you shouldn’t hug strangers.”
Have questions about COVID? The Lexington health department has a hotline: (859) 899-2222.