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Dane Co. health dept. braces for the “long haul” with COVID-19, looks to add 19 new positions

(WMTV)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 3:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - “Our department has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year and a half and the pandemic is not going away anytime soon.”

That was the warning from Public Health Madison Director Janel Heinrich. And, in a sign of just how long health officials expect COVID-19 to weigh on the community, Dane County’s health dept. plans to fill nearly 20 new positions for the next several years.

The agency reported Wednesday that a multi-million-dollar package of state and federal grants will allow it to create 19 jobs with the agency – and that money will fund those roles through the end of 2024.

“These new, multi-year positions are needed immediately to sustain the response over the near,-to mid-term, while also maintaining the ‘normal’ high level of programmatic services,” Heinrich explained.

According to its statement, PHMDC wants to add positions for disease control, testing, vaccination, compliance, operational planning and infrastructure, communications systems, recovery and resiliency, and preparedness capabilities.

While the agency states the money is lined up, it will need approval from both the City of Madison and Dane Co. before hiring can begin. However, both Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi endorsed the initiative.

“We’ve all learned how incredibly important our public health department is over the last year and a half,” Rhodes-Conway said, adding “and we know we need them to keep responding to COVID-19. But we also need them to return to their other work as well, and these positions will allow that.”

Parisi, meanwhile acknowledged that “COVID-19 is here for the long-haul” and echoed the Madison mayor’s statement that PHMDC needs to handle its routine services in addition to continuing with its pandemic response.

The Dane Co. Board is expected to take up the issue on Thursday, while a similar resolution is on the city’s docket for the Common Council’s Sept. 21 meeting.

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