Orange County Health Services: Ground Zero in Coronavirus Response
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted Central Florida 18 months ago, Orange County Health Services has led the way in providing personal protective equipment (PPE), testing site services and vaccination site services – all part of a herculean effort to keep residents safe and healthy.
Daniella Sullivan, Health Services Program Administrator for OC Medical Clinic, was only at the County for a few months when the pandemic hit the region. Responsible for all operations at the Orange County Medical Clinic, she had to begin splitting her time between the clinic and COVID-19 testing sites.
“The County was proactive from the very beginning,” recalled Sullivan. “In early 2020 we were discussing possible scenarios, and once the first local coronavirus case was reported, we went from prevention mode and distributing PPEs to providing major testing services.”
Health Services official started COVID-19 testing on April 29, 2020, at Ventura Elementary and South Orange Youth Sports Complex. Testing expanded to include additional locations throughout the County. To date, the division has helped administer over 460,000 COVID-19 tests.
When the vaccine came out, Health Services needed to switch gears while still running the testing sites. Sullivan had to coordinate staffing and support for both while ensuring operations at the clinic continued. Since December 2020, the County has administered more than 1.7 million doses of vaccine to residents and has helped to vaccinate 74 percent of residents with one or more doses.
Danny Banks, Deputy County Administrator/Director of Public Safety, recalls the huge investment the division put into getting people vaccinated while also continuing the testing platforms. “Smaller departments within the division – including Animal Services, Mosquito Control and the Medical Directors Office – became part of the infrastructure for staffing at the testing sites,” he said. “It’s been all-hands-on-deck with people doing jobs not normally in their job descriptions.”
When the Delta variant hit a few months ago, Health Services had to switch gears again. Testing exploded from 450 people/day to over 1,500/day at Barnett Park, so two additional testing sites were opened. At its peak, the County was administering up to 6,000 tests a day.
“All of this has made me a better leader,” said Sullivan. “During a crisis, you have to adapt and lead differently. Residents need empathy and compassion, plus my staff has been working hard for more than a year and half, so they need as much support as possible. And I must be able to step back and admit when I’m afraid, uncomfortable or tired.”
Banks believes the role Health Services has played has been largely unrecognized as they are the unsung heroes who have put others first and given 100 percent of themselves, day after day, week after week, month after month.
“There’s no way we could ever adequately reward selfless people like Daniella and her staff, each of whom has stepped up and met this great challenge,” he asserted. “In addition to the testing and vaccinations, they’ve given out more than 20 million disposable masks. How many lives has that saved? How many hospitalizations has that helped avoid? We’ll never be able to measure that.”
For more coronavirus information and resources, visit ocfl.net/COVID19.
Photo Captions: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Orange County Government Health Services’ medical staff have provided essential COVID-19 services to residents and guests across the County.