County Manager Column from Sept. 15, 2020

When COVID comes to your door

Early last week, I received a positive test result for COVID-19. I am hopeful that sharing a bit about my family’s experience with the virus provides a first-hand perspective to you for awareness and understanding of the impacts on our workforce. Many of our employees have already had COVID-19 affect the lives of their families directly – some much more severely than me and they are whom we should keep thinking about first and foremost. And given what we know of this virus, it’s extremely likely that many others will have their own COVID stories before this pandemic is behind us.

I want to thank those who have reached out during the past six months to share their unique experiences with COVID. Because of many of you, I felt connected to a lot of people who had already experienced what my family just went through. I’d also ask that, to the extent you feel comfortable doing so in the months ahead, please keep sharing your stories. These are stories that I want to use to help us learn and grow as an organization. I want to know you are doing OK. And I will do what I can to lift up the voices of employees across this organization so that this isn’t about any one person’s COVID experience.

Instead of writing a lot more about my experience here, I am going to direct you to today’s COVID-19 discussion with the board of commissioners where we discussed how to learn from this moment and continue to improve as an organization in our service to this community:

Watch the COVID-19 discussion

Throughout these past few weeks, I continued thinking about the families and individuals at higher risk of more serious impacts from COVID. I had a lot of time to think about those without insurance, with transportation challenges, multiple jobs (or no jobs right now), those who do not speak English as a primary language and those who are on the other side of the digital divide. I also think about all of those for whom trusting government is not a given – with personal and generational stories to support those feelings of concern and distrust. At best these barriers create difficulties to getting a test and better understanding what you should do to keep yourself and others safe. At worst these barriers can literally be the difference between life and death. I’m very thankful to have been in constant contact with the leadership of Public Health throughout so that this experience can provide one more data point as we work to improve our work as a service provider and employer. I will continue to share those updates with all of you in the months ahead.

I am sorry that I missed a few regular columns and videos with all of you, but I appreciate the grace and compassion extended by the board and many of you as I focused on my health and the health of my family. We will need large amounts of that individual and organizational grace and compassion as we head into a challenging fall and winter, and I believe that we can set an example for other organizations and communities to follow in the months ahead.

We are going to get through COVID and we’re going to do it together. The leadership and commitment I continue to see from our employees every day brings me hope and optimism  - and that is an ethos that will see us through to a better tomorrow. We will continue to work on the information we have available for employees so that, if coronavirus comes to your door, you have the best information available to guide you through the testing and follow-up protocols. We will continue to update and evaluate the benefits that Ramsey County has expanded to help during the pandemic. I’d also recommend calling on colleagues for both personal and professional support as you feel comfortable so that we may support you during any moments need.

As always, thanks for all you do and I’m excited to be back at work with all of you!