Local COVID-19 Response

by Lisa Vasquez, NHPHA Communications Committee Chair

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has grown to pandemic proportions and has impacted most of the world. The response to the pandemic can change from one area to another depending on how each area has been impacted. We have seen rises and decreases in different areas of the country at differing times. New Hampshire is no different from the rest of the country. We can see different areas having higher instances of infections than others. For example, Coos County has seen a lower number of infections in comparison to Hillsborough County. Population density seems to play a large factor in the propagation of the infection. Therefore, the response of Coos County will not be the same as Hillsborough County. Hillsborough County is the most populous county in New Hampshire with the two largest cities located within. These two cities, Nashua and Manchester, each have a local health department. The rest of the state is served by the state health department.

To be able to achieve an appropriate response to COVID-19, we rely on three important things:

  • Data that is able to provide information on the virus propagation among many other data points that are essential to making informed decisions by leaders in the community.
  • Community collaboration to be able to respond within a short period of time. This includes agencies working together but also includes agencies understanding their communities to be able to disseminate information in a way that is culturally informed to the demographics of said community.
  • Contact tracing and adherence of quarantine and isolation guidelines when someone tests positive for COVID-19.

What is the importance of local response when we have so many levels of leadership: local, county, state, regional, and national? Local leadership supports all other levels of leadership. The magic of local response is simply community. Local health departments like Manchester and Nashua are able to have boots on the ground, understand the ins and outs of the community, and have partnerships that enhance being able to connect with populations that are not easily connected to healthcare or able to access resources. Local health departments can focus on their communities and become experts in them. There is much more to learn about COVID-19, but there is already infrastructure through local health departments and local leaderships like the public health networks to be able to build resilience and respond to emergencies that may arise. We can get through this together, understanding that local health departments are taking in data to make informed decisions about how to continue to keep communities safe and healthy. To learn more about your local health department or public health network, please visit their respective websites.

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