During the recent May Leadership Council meeting, the GCACH convened a group of community leaders to discuss how they perceived the upcoming recovery process might look like.
Greg Lane, Executive VP for the Building Industry Association of WA (BIAW), discussed how the state’s construction industry was restarted through implementation of guidelines aimed at maintaining workers’ safety at building sites. Washington was one of few states to have the stay-at-home order imposed on construction, which facilitated an immediate industry reaction. BIAW decided early on to proactively focus on worker safety protocols for construction work to assure the state that worker health was paramount. A working group developed state industry safety guidelines, and these eventually were emulated by other industries.
Meghan DeBolt, Director of Walla Walla County Department of Community Health (DCH), spoke on how the health department worked with the local meat packing plant, Tyson Fresh Meats, to implement safety measures that helped the plant re-open. DCH partnered with Tyson to ensure measures were in place to educate employees, screen for possible COVID-19 symptoms, ensure physical distancing between plant workers, implement PPE and monitor any existing and arising cases. The DCH also took an approach with Tyson to monitor the outbreak and implement mitigation strategies, as well as comprehensive employee screening for the virus. Through this collaboration, Tyson enhanced their practices and workflows and helped stem the spread of infection.
Dr. Larry Jecha, County Health officer for Walla Walla and Columbia Counties, discussed how southeast WA counties have begun to re-open but needed to have appropriate protocol, such as contact tracing, and low case rates in place before being eligible for moving. Challenges relating to this are managing the affect from outside visitors coming into the region and the overall affect the social determinants of health have had on the health of vulnerable populations.
Roman Pinal from United Farm Workers spoke about how farming and food workers have taken the brunt from infections during the pandemic, due to the nature of their work and how this is placing the nation’s food supply at risk. Roman believes that negotiated labor agreements have resulted in better working conditions, including greater availability of safety equipment and enhanced relationships with management and owners.
Allison Poulson, Executive Director with Better Health Together, discussed how recovery is being supported by the governor’s different statewide advisory groups, including the Public Health and Healthcare group that focuses on the clinical aspects of the pandemic. The governor has discussed other responses, such as additional statewide capacity for manufacturing PPE (e.g., masks) and additional testing capabilities. Also concerning are a rise in behavioral health concerns and needs (e.g., increase in domestic violence), and this is likely to become worse as we proceed toward the fall.
John Roach, with WholeStory, discussed how public health and economic health are inextricably connected. If consumers do not feel confident about going out in public and into re-opened businesses, then it will not matter what phase we might all be in. It is important for us to understand the psychological and sociological factors impacting citizens during this crisis and how to respond to these. It’s also evident that there is a corresponding increase in the sense of community among citizens.