Public Health leaders recall tough days during Delta surge
Douglas County’s top public health expert recently heralded the efforts by Cow Creek Public Health as an integral part of the region’s response to COVID-19 during the Delta surge.
“This has been a tremendous time of cooperation between the Cow Creek Tribe and Douglas County,” said Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, Executive Director of the Douglas County Public Health Network, while speaking with Melinda Sprague, Cow Creek Public Health Improvement Manager as part of DPHN’s weekly COVID Conversations on YouTube.
“We appreciate our partners at the county, county commissioners, the Douglas Public Health Network. I know you’ve taken a few of my phone calls over the last few weeks!” said Sprague.
During the pandemic, DPHN has expanded their communication outreach to include regular chats online with community health partners, spreading the word about the importance of getting vaccinated, testing and staying healthy. Sprague was the most recent agency leader to be featured talking with Dr. Dannenhoffer about the state of COVID in the area, and how local organizations worked together to bring infections down.
While recalling the beginning of the Delta surge, when the highly contagious variant began to spread more swiftly throughout Douglas County, Sprague told Dr. Dannenhoffer the Tribe was seeing more people getting sick and knew they had to take action.
“With the surge, there was such a high need for testing in the county at the time that we just felt we had to come together and figure out a way to get people tested and get some of that infection control,” she said.
Just before the weekend of August 14th, Cow Creek Public Health put together what would soon become a regular event in the community – free public testing to anyone who thought they had been exposed to COVID. According to Sprague, her team thought they might test 30 people that Saturday. But they ended up testing over 150 people. By the end of August, Public Health had administered 2,800 tests, and about one in every four people tested was sick with COVID.
“There was a week stretch there where we had so many people testing positive that I just thought…if it continues at this rate I don’t know what it’s going to look like two or three weeks from now,” she said.
The surge didn’t slow down. During September, Public Health continued providing free COVID tests to anyone seven days a week. That month, they administered around 3,500 tests, and about 15% came back positive for COVID. By mid-October, Public Health concluded free testing, and moved all testing to Cow Creek Health and Wellness clinic locations, free for Tribal members and their families, established patients, and Cow Creek and UIDC employees.
“There’s a lot of good news in town with the decreasing number of cases, and I think we’re having an increase ability to get vaccinated and to get tested,” said Dr. Dannenhoffer. “But for this tough time in August and September, Cow Creek was an absolute God-send to help us with testing and vaccination. I cannot thank you enough.”
“We’re happy to help folks in any way we can,” said Sprague. “So many people have sent emails thanking us, we’re just happy to be good partners and help meet the needs during this surge.”
Cow Creek Public Health continues to work alongside DPHN to reduce COVID in the area, offering free vaccinations to anyone 18 years of age and older, as well as booster shots to people with compromised immune systems, and others in the FDA-approved categories.