Frankfort paper names local health agency Newsmaker of Year

Franklin County Health Department staff pose for a photo taken by Deputy Director Brittany Parker.

The pandemic has been very hard on local health departments, which in many if not most cases haven’t received the respect and recognition they deserve for bearing the extra workload and putting up with coronavirus skeptics who harass or abuse them. At least one got very prominent recognition at year’s end, as The State Journal of Frankfort named the Franklin County Health Department its Newsmaker of the Year.
“It is because of their tireless efforts to keep the community healthy, while dealing with an increasingly hostile environment and constant threat of possible contamination,” Harrison Wagner writes. “From organizing a way to administer tests and multiple doses of the vaccines, to creating informational materials about virus prevention, all while attempting to keep a healthy work-life balance and still perform their normal duties, the Franklin County Health Department has managed to weather the storm of the pandemic.”

Health departments also enforce rules at workplaces, and “there were instances of hostility towards health environmentalists, or health inspectors, while they were enforcing safety guidelines at businesses,” Wagner reports, quoting Director Judy Mattingly: “There were quite a few scary situations where their strict instructions from me were that if any business owner is hostile with you in any way, shape or form, that you are to leave immediately. There were situations at that time where our environmentalists were able to call our police partners or sheriff partners and be accompanied on those inspections.”

On the bright side, the pandemic has raised the profile of the department “and its other healthy-living initiatives,” Wagner writes. “The staff has become closer as a result of working together at the testing and vaccination drive-thrus. Mattingly said this has led to Secret Santa gift exchanges and Friendsgivings, which has made the department more tightly knit.”

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