NEHA member, M.L. Tanner is a Program Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Tanner works in the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program coordinating case management activities between Health Department nurses and EH Managers to assure appropriate follow up for children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels. She is also a NEHA Technical Advisor in the area of Children’s Environmental Health. In her interview, Tanner discusses what work-life looks like since the onset of COVID-19. As EH professionals strive to meet the health and safety needs of South Carolina communities they have relied on virtual options to carry out essential day-to-day work. We reached out to Tanner to get her personal perspective on being an EH professional during the COVID-19 crisis. The opinions expressed here are her own and not intended to be an official response from S.C. Department of Health. Thank you M.L. for sharing your experience and point-of-view with NEHA!
NEHA: How has your work changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Carolina?
Tanner: Most of our work has transitioned from face-to-face contact with individuals to a virtual or social distancing concept. Many of our in-person retail food establishment inspections have been halted. We have contacted these establishments and provided compliance assistance, based on their change in operations. Many have gone from serving meals inside to only doing take-out, which they have traditionally not done. Many have questions on how that can be achieved successfully while still working within their specific limitations. Facilities that wish to have an inspection have been achieved through video conferencing along with dialogue in how the establishment is preparing, handling, and sanitizing throughout their process.
Hazardous waste and solid waste inspections have been temporarily suspended, along with underground storage tank and air inspections.
Rabies investigations have adapted to allow for owners of pets involved in bite cases to use video calls to prove the animal’s health. Quarantine notices have been provided through email to owners. Investigations have transitioned away from in-person contact to virtual, through emails, phone conversations, and video conferencing. It has required more coordination with staff working from home and staff in the office on the input and processing of reports.
Ambient stream monitoring has continued to collect water samples. There is typically minimal contact with any outside persons in performing these functions. Drinking water samples have continued, with contacting individuals at sample locations and ensuring that social distancing measures are in place when those samples are collected.
In our Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, our Public Health Nurses are making contact by telephone to being case management. Home visits by our certified Lead Risk Assessors for environmental assessments are being deferred.
Many staff members that are telecommuting are getting a lot of online training accomplished while inspections have been pared back temporarily.