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As emergency preparedness coordinator/health educator for East Shore District Health Department (ESDHD), and Connecticut Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Region 2 lead (as well as heading MRC’s Shoreline Unit), Daisy Hernandez oversees some key COVID-19 crisis-focused efforts supporting public health and medical needs in this area. (Photo courtesy of Daisy Hernandez )
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Ever since she started working in emergency preparedness, Daisy Hernandez’s main focus has been mostly training to prepare for natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and blizzards.
“Never in my life did I think I was going to live through a pandemic,” says Daisy. “So for COVID-19 to come...it’s definitely brought me out of my comfort zone, and take on more responsibilities, and just be a leader for those that I work with and my colleagues.”
As the emergency preparedness coordinator/health educator for East Shore District Health Department (ESDHD), as well as Connecticut Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Region 2 lead, Daisy is heading up some key COVID-19 crisis-focused efforts supporting public health and medical needs in this area. In addition to serving as lead for MRC Region 2, which is composed of six units in New Haven County, Daisy also heads up Region 2’s Shoreline Unit, covering towns stretching from East Haven to Old Saybrook.
Helping Direct Volunteers
MRC is a national network of volunteers, organized locally to improve the health and safety of their communities. As COVID-19 ramped up, Daisy worked to help pump up MRC’s rolling list of medical and other volunteers. To help funnel more MRC volunteers to assist in the pandemic, the Connecticut Department of Public Health recently launched a new volunteer management website, CT Responds at ctresponds.ct.gov, she notes.
“We are asking everyone that’s interested in volunteering, whether they’re a medical professional or non-medical, to register through this system and put in the town that they live in. And based on where they live, they will automatically be assigned to a local MRC unit,” says Daisy.
As Daisy can attest, people are ready, willing and eager to volunteer.
“In Region 2, back in December before the COVID-19 pandemic started, we had 580 registered,” she says. “In the past couple of weeks since the system was launched, we have received an influx of people who have registered and are eager to help in any way possible. If I were to guess, I’d say that we have more than a thousand volunteers now registered, just within Region 2.”
As Region 2 MRC lead, “I’ve been getting multiple requests for volunteers from different facilities in our region,” she says. “The first one was the New Haven isolation center that [is] at Career High School. This shelter is specifically for homeless that have tested positive for COVID-19 but have nowhere else to go to recover and have the medical attention they need. They had reached out to me to request specifically medical volunteers—registered nurses, LPNs, CNAs, and M.D.s—that will be able to come in and help with the monitoring of patients that are COVID-positive. As of right now, we have about 30 MRC volunteers that are assisting at the facility.”
Daisy is also finding plenty of work for volunteers to assist within the region’s Shoreline unit.
“We have utilized our volunteers in any way possible. We’ve had a couple volunteers actually come to the health department and answer phone calls for us, triaging calls as they’re coming in,” she says. “During this pandemic, [ESDHD] is front and center, and people are coming to us for answers.”
Volunteers are trained to follow a script and answer as many questions coming in from callers as possible, referring medical questions to professionals.
“They’ve also helped tremendously with the distribution of homemade masks that we’ve gotten that have been made locally by many good Samaritans in our communities,” says Daisy.
Serving the Shoreline
Located in Branford, ESDHD is the health department for the towns of Branford, North Branford, and East Haven. Daisy also coordinates with Madison and Guilford health departments in her MRC role, and beyond.
“I am a contracted worker for Madison Health Department as well, doing public health preparedness for them,” she says. “In Guilford, I work really well with the director of health, and he’s actually part of our mass [medicine] dispensing area.”
The mass dispensing area covers Guilford, Madison, Branford, North Branford, and East Haven as one of multiple state-designated groupings of public health districts that will work together to provide medications to the population in a disease outbreak.
“So [ESDHD] would take the lead in providing the distribution of mass medications to the [shoreline] population,” says Daisy, including, if developed, a COVID-19 vaccination.
“If a vaccine were to be developed for COVID-19, that would be something that East Shore and Guilford and Madison health departments would be working together to distribute, to help vaccinate the population,” she says.
Daisy, who grew up in Branford (Branford High School Class of 2011) and still resides in her hometown, is familiar with the shoreline as a resident and through her experience as a local public health official.
“I am a proud resident of Branford—I’ve been a resident since I was 10 years old,” says Daisy. “I actually started out in my field as a part-time health educator at the Connecticut River Area Health District in Old Saybrook, which also covered Clinton, Deep River, and Haddam at the time.”
She received a B.S. in public health from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in May 2016 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at SCSU. She’s also gaining valuable learning experience through her work to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, she says.
“It’s been a huge learning experience, and I’m still learning as we go,” says Daisy.
Daisy joined ESDHD in July 2018 in her current ESDHD and MRC Region 2 roles. She says she truly appreciates the support the public is showing all public health departments and medical volunteer programs during the COVID-19 crisis.
“There’s a lot going on right now, and I’d like to say that we are just so grateful for the influx of volunteers that have come up to us, that have called me or emailed me, that are just looking for some way to help,” she says. “It’s been really heartwarming, because every little effort does make a huge difference.”
To contact Daisy Hernandez, call 203-481-4233 or email email@example.com.
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