With all that’s been going on over the last few years, it’s hard to keep track of the latest news in medicine or which sources post safe, reliable, scientific information. Now imagine being a doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider. They’re inundated daily with facts, figures, statistics, test results and updates on a local, state and federal level. Recently Thurston County Public Health and Social Services hosted a Provider Summit to answer questions and address living with COVID-19.

nurse holding up a vial
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services recently hosted a Provider Summit for local healthcare workers. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

The Summit, which took place on May 16, was a way “for Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek and Public Health to connect with local medical providers to discuss public health priorities as we transition from having the COVID-19 pandemic in the foreground to living with it in the background,” explains Public Information Specialist Meredith Mathis.

Nearly 900 medical providers in Thurston County were invited to this session, including primary care physicians, pediatricians, orthopedic specialists. “It was a special meeting of the Board of Health, and the community was able to attend as well,” says Mathis.

Addressed on the day’s agenda were the roles and responsibilities of our County Health Officer, Thurston County’s COVID-19 experience and next steps, provider feedback on a variety of polled questions and a Q&A session. Topics for that session ranged from plans for childhood immunizations, ongoing COVID-19 services, treatment options for the underinsured and uninsured, prioritization decisions on a countywide level, best practices for reporting notifiable conditions and emerging diseases within our region.

When polled, medical attendees were most concerned about a few common, foundational themes in local care. These included maternal, child and family health; chronic disease and injury prevention; access to clinical care; and communicable disease control. These same providers reported that access to clinical care was one of the top issues for their patients and clients.

Thurston County Public Health team at a COVID vaccine site
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services teams have administered more than 82,000 COVID vaccines and distributed more than 22,000 test kits to date. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

Mathis reports that the PHSS team, “has administered 82,707 COVID vaccines (of the 533,000 administered countywide by all providers) over the course of 580 vaccine clinics” as of May 18, 2022. They also distributed 22,320 testing kits. Distribution was done through partnerships with 32 locations countywide in distributing Rapid Antigen tests as well as their testing locations.

Though many of Washington’s earlier restrictions have eased, COVID-19 will remain with us for a long time. “During our transition into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic we anticipate continuing to ensure that our responsibilities to the Thurston County community with regard to outbreaks, settings with high transmission risks and individuals who are high risk for severe disease as well as working to ensure access to testing, isolation and quarantine as well as vaccinations are met,” says Kurt Hardin, interim PHSS director.

Studies also show that many of us postponed or skipped routine care altogether during earlier lockdowns. “Rates of routine vaccinations decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic and are an area of continued focus in our county,” shares Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmale. “Additionally, there are other communicable diseases including Sexually Transmitted Infections, Tuberculosis and emerging communicable diseases like H5N1—the Avian Influenza—currently circulating in flocks in the state, and monkeypox that are an area of focus.”

Follow the latest Thurston County statistics, updates and information on their regional COVID-19 dashboard. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

There are also longtime issues that didn’t disappear simply because we were distracted by the pandemic. “Opioid overdoses have increased and are an area of interest as well as preparing for the next emergency,” says Abdelmale. “Our vision for public health is a collaborative one and this summit was the first of hopefully many conversations with providers, stakeholders and community members.”

Want to know more about the county’s response to the Coronavirus, find a testing site or see a dashboard of local statistics? Visit the PHSS COVID-19 homepage for information, assistance hotlines, blog posts and the most recent letter to the Community from the Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek.

You can also follow the team’s work via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates including Coronavirus testing and vaccination schedules, health reports and topical information like dealing with the ongoing infant formula shortage. Contact the team directly with questions or requests for assistance.

Knowing where to find reliable information can be tricky but thanks to events like the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Provider Summit, healthcare teams can stay in the know and share what they’ve learned with families countywide. The more we know, the safer, healthier and happier we’ll all be as summer rolls around.

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