CORONAVIRUS

Linn County epidemiologist earns national public health recognition

Amy Hockett awarded for work collecting data for pandemic, derecho responses

Amy Hockett

Linn County Public Health
Amy Hockett Linn County Public Health

An epidemiologist with Linn County Public Health has earned national recognition for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Aug. 10 derecho.

The American Public Health Association has named Amy Hockett as the 2020 recipient of the Innovation in Public Health award. The Washington, D.C.-based association for public health professionals honored Hockett and other award recipients over a virtual award ceremony this past Saturday.

“With all the extraordinary work in public health happening across the country, I did not expect to get the award or even be nominated,” she said.

Hockett earned the award for her work to “quickly develop tools which were critical for decision-making by Linn County Public Health staff, local jurisdictions, community partners and the public,” according to a news release.

Kaitlin Emrich, assessment and health promotion supervisor with Linn County Public Health, wrote in her nomination letter that without the development of these technologies and techniques, “the response by Linn County Public Health would not have been as robust as it was.”

Hockett has been with Linn County Public Health for the past seven years. She worked as a health education specialist for two years before moving into her current role as epidemiologist.

Early in the midst of the pandemic, Hockett focused her efforts on collecting and aggregating data using the Geographic Information System, or GIS, to better understand how the novel coronavirus was affecting the community.

One asset of this effort was a survey that was sent out to every long-term care facility and other residential care facilities throughout the county on any symptoms among their staff and residents. Those facilities that reported out of the ordinary symptoms were contacted by Linn County Public Health’s contact tracers.

“Early on, we were able to catch a lot of facilities in an early outbreak stage,” Hockett said.

This data collection also helped notify first responders in the county of potential positive cases involved in calls to which they were responding. An emergency proclamation allows dispatchers to notify first responders heading to call about the risk for exposure. Hockett used the same process to divert resources to residents in need following the derecho. Three surveys were sent out in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Linn County to measure residents’ immediate needs, such as for housing and food.

“When Cedar Rapids put theirs out, they did it solely for information purposes,” Hockett said.

“Being a public health person, I wanted to make sure they get the needs met. That’s how I was pulled into it.”

Using a similar process, Hockett was able to direct people who filled out the survey to organizations, such as HACAP, that can help address that need.

Hockett said the county public health agency intends to use these techniques throughout the course of the pandemic and in other community-based initiatives in the future.

“My passion is helping people in any way I can,” she said.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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