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Jefferson County Health Officer Gives Annual Public Health Address

CC, © Christian Emmer

There was a war with COVID-19 throughout last year and through the alliances created during the pandemic the Birmingham metro area is better prepared to help people with health crises in this post-war period, according to Jefferson Country Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said a speech Friday.

“In order to fight a war, you have to have a functioning military apparatus, and you have to have allies,” Wilson said.

Wilson gave the speech at the Annual Public Health Address for Jefferson County. The event was hosted virtually by the School of Public Health. It came at the end of National Public Health Week, a time dedicated to highlighting public health issues across the nation.

The fight against COVID-19, according to Wilson, has similarities to World War II, invoking the British’s stand against Nazi Germany before US involvement in the war. Wilson said the department was the “standing army,” and they had numerous allies come to their aide as the US did to Great Britain.

Wilson said he wanted to spend his speech recognizing and thanking the people who helped with the challenges created by COVID-19.

He said the department was prepared for the possibility of a pandemic or large outbreak in January of last year thanks to work done with the Jefferson County Healthcare Coalition and other partners.

“We have people who have experience in working within an incident command structure, because we have done it before,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the union between the health department’ incident command and the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency was crucial in being able to meet the needs of the community.

“It’s not just the public health response to the disease… it’s making sure families out of work and kids who are out of school have food to eat. Or to make sure our first responders have supplies,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s said National Public Health Week’s theme of, “Building bridges to better health,” was underscored by an importance of the connections made between one another.

“We were better positioned to deal with this pandemic early on because of the relationships that existed beforehand,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the department was concerned with the threat of variant strains of the disease, so measures taken to help slow the spread of COIVD-19 are still the right path.

“While the state-wide face mask order does expire today, I am standing with the state health officer and the Governor in strongly recommending the use of face masks in public places,” Wilson said.

Wilson said alliances made during the pandemic will better position all public health officials to deal with the other problems that they will face in the future.

“We are better positioned now, to face the many public health challenges ahead,” Wilson said, “because of old alliances that we strengthened, and new alliances that were forged.”

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