Administrative and clinical staff in nursing facilities around the country are under tremendous stress trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Facilities are getting barraged from all sides with information from experts and questions from residents and their families. In this period of uncertainty, do not overlook an important ally and resource right in your backyard—your local health department. The medical director at your health department is the epidemiology expert in your community, and is an invaluable resource for how pubic health issues are best addressed in your specific community, with your specific population.

Using guidance from your local health department to formulate your response to the COVID-19 pandemic, lends credibility and authority to your response. This can be critical with measures that are difficult for staff or residents to accept, such as limiting or restricting visitation and or screening staff for infection. Let staff, residents, families and the community know that you are following the health department’s recommendations when you communicate these difficult policy and procedure changes. Additionally, having the support of the local health department may be useful if your response approach is challenged during a survey.

Developing a good working relationship with health department officials will pay off down the road, too, when the next public health issue arises in your community or facility. Public health issues, from drinking water safety to immunizations, often develop quickly. When they do, you will be glad you have already established a strong working relationship with the experts at your local health department.

Click here for contact information for your local health department in Michigan.