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One positive COVID case identified during Friday, Dec. 4 Crooked River Ranch clinic

PAT KRUIS/MADRAS PIONEER
 - More than 100 people lined up to get free COVID tests and flu shots at the Crooked River Ranch fire station last Friday. Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker fills out a form for one patron.

More than 100 people lined up at the Crooked River Ranch fire station Friday for free COVID tests and free flu shots.

The high turnout pleases Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker. "When we talk about the spread of COVID, we here in Jefferson County see an exponential spread with individuals and families. So, every test we do now has the potential to limit four or five family infections down the road."

More tests also provide critical demographic information. "There have been several different age groups and several different ethnicities that have been here. We look at that data and see who's being impacted more, specifically in the Crooked River Ranch community, and Jefferson County as a whole."

An operation like this calls for an "all hands on deck" response from the health department, who this day worked side-by-side with volunteers from the CRR fire department. Karla Hood handles finance and grants for the public health department, but the pandemic has drawn her in to extra duty. Today she counted tests instead of money. "It feels good to be part of the team doing what needs to be done."

The pandemic has monopolized Tara Peschel's first year as a public health nurse. "I really like getting out and being able to reach a large group of people all at once."

Peschel, Hood and their co-workers have been pulling long hours just to keep up with the screening, testing and contact tracing. As director, Baker has been working up to 70 hours a week. "Each of our COVID team has far exceeded our 40-hour work week to the point where we had to get permission from our county and the union to be able to expand our work week."

People came to the clinic for a variety of reasons:

"It's convenient and it's free."

"Curiosity. I'm out and about and I figured I better get tested."

"We've been exposed and we're being safe so we're not out spreading it."

Out of 105 COVID tests, only one proved to be positive. Baker says most people came out of caution, not because they had symptoms or had been exposed. Forty-eight people took advantage of the free flu shot.

Baker says it's more important than ever to get a flu shot this year. Not only can having the flu make a person more susceptible to the coronavirus, but staying healthy also puts less stress on the system. Baker says hospitals are set up to handle a pandemic, and to handle the flu, and to handle an event with multiple casualties, but not all three at once.

Along with the testing and the flu shot, the health department brought its third, and arguably most important, tool: information. "Until the vaccine comes out, this is all about personal choice, personal behavior, personal information," says Baker. "That's where public health has to take the lead."


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