As is true with everyone else, things are changing rapidly for Kendra Mobray, Dent County Health Department administrator, as the coronavirus takes hold of our daily lives.
She’s now 100 percent focused on COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, and what can be done to prevent its spread. That’s a radical departure from her normal duties of overseeing programs like WIC, immunizations, TB screenings and other services at the Dent County Health Center.
“I’ll start by saying I’m doing my very best to make informed decisions to keep our community safe while continuing to consider the economic impact on local businesses,” she said of the new responsibilities she’s taken on in recent weeks. “I’m in constant communication with our medical director (Dr. Yvonne Prince) and our county emergency management director Brad Nash.”
She added, “I have been very busy researching and getting myself educated and talking to other local health officials in the region. I’ve spent the majority of the last week in meetings with our county officials, our city officials and other health department administrators across Region I. We’re all trying to do the same things, be on the same page, give out the same message.”
Meanwhile, other employees at the health center, notably assistant administrator Roma Jones, have taken on Mobray’s normal duties. “My staff has kind of kept the rest of our business going as usual without my help,” Mobray said. “I haven’t been home very much, haven’t slept very much.”
Under normal circumstances, she helps with overflow if the nurses get too busy, stepping in as a nurse, or if the clerks get too busy up front, she steps in as a clerk. “I handle the schedule and take care of the administrative end, the financials,” she said. “I have an assistant administrator, Roma Jones, who has stepped into that position for me so my complete focus has been on this.”
She said Missouri has been preparing for the crisis since mid-January as a state, with the Dent County Health Department working with the Department of Health and Senior Services.
“But really as it’s become more real in Missouri and across the nation the last week and a half, my focus has been 100 percent on keeping this community safe and learning everything that I can about the situation,” she said.
She has a communicable disease nurse who has stepped up and is making sure tests are sent out as needed and that results come back as needed.
“When I’m not here, she’s fielding the calls and then our second nurse who doesn’t typically do CD has stepped up and is also started learning the CD role,” she said. “When cases start coming in, we’ll stay on top of them, we’ll keep our numbers straight and know what the situation is for Dent County every day.”
Addressing frustration some residents have with being unable to get tested, she said the state is trying to make sure a test is warranted first. There’s an algorithm that has to be met before someone is approved for testing.
When the state is called with a testing request, “the people on the other end of the line have to make sure that this algorithm and these criteria are met,” Mobray said. “Some of those are getting denied. But commercial labs, LabCorp and Qwest, are doing the test as well and there isn’t criteria that has to be met for them. There’s not a shortage of tests, but there’s a certain number of tests,” that are available.
She noted that for the general, everyday person who’s not working in healthcare, a positive test isn’t necessarily important. “Staying home when you’re sick is more important,” she said.
March 9 is when concerns about COVID-19 started to increase locally and more phone calls and questions started coming in at the health center, she said. Although there had been no confirmed cases in Dent County as of Monday, it will happen eventually, she predicted.
“I think it’s a matter of when, but we’re prepared when we get that first case,” Mobray said. “I know it’s going to cause some panic and I know people are going to be even more scared. We will submit a press release just as quick as we can,” to inform the public.
First the patient must be contacted and the health center has to identify the contacts that are high risk as part of the investigation. “We’ll take care of all that before we do the press release and notify the public because that has to be our priority: to get everyone who is at high-risk home, so the virus isn’t spreading,” she said.