Public Health staff pose for photo with Governor Tony Evers
Public Health staff pose for photo with Governor Tony Evers.

Today, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) kicked off its statewide “Thank you” tour in Madison at the Alliant Energy Center. The agency is traveling throughout the state to meet with representatives from local health departments, tribal health clinics, and healthcare facilities to offer gratitude for the efforts displayed throughout the COVID-19 response.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers spoke at the kickoff event today, sharing in part: “From healthcare workers to the Wisconsin National Guard members, local public health officers, tribal health directors, first responders, agency staff, community-based organizations, front desk staff, janitors, and so many others, guess what, you saved lives.
Think about that. You are heroes of this pandemic.”

The Governor also presented an official Certificate of Commendation honoring Public Health Madison & Dane County for its contributions to communities within Madison and Dane County, including vaccination, testing, contact tracing, data dissemination, and communications. DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake and Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp also spoke at the event, as well as Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, Janel Heinrich. Here are her remarks:

"As those who have come before me have said, so many people and organizations have worked diligently, passionately and without desire for recognition to keep our community healthy, safe and well. 

I would like to begin with my profound appreciation for this opportunity to recognize the hard work of our team at Public Health Madison & Dane County. It is my honor to stand before you not only as the Director of PHMDC but also with the privilege of representing the work of each and every dedicated member of our team—whether they have been with us before the pandemic or joined our efforts since then.

Over the past two years, PHMDC staff have set aside regular program work to roll up their sleeves and help in whatever way was needed, often taking on multiple roles and responsibilities at once. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to cover my own personal gratitude for the tremendous efforts I have seen unfold as we have chartered these uncertain waters together.

I believe I can safely say that every person here today and every person watching at home has been impacted by COVID—either personally or professionally—and I know that impact takes a toll. I want to recognize the strength, resilience and flexibility that has been displayed across the community despite the many challenges we have all faced.
Incident Commander Kate Stanford-Austin with Governor Evers

For our public health staff, the dedication and commitment to serve the people of Dane County has never wavered. This department has proven its ability to adjust and adapt, shifting focus and resources where it’s needed most: in contact tracing, testing, vaccination, liaison support, community partnership, data collection, and communications.

Alongside our COVID response, our work in other programs also continued, including serving our WIC clients, providing sexual and reproductive health services, caring for those on the cusp of parenthood, responding to animal services calls, making sure our beaches and pools are safe with daily testing, or distributing Narcan kits to community sites—the list goes on.

Healthy people. Healthy places. A mission certainly made more difficult in the midst of a global pandemic, but it’s one I’ve seen each member of our Public Health team strive for day in and day out.In the past two years, public health staff have worked alongside our partners in the National Guard, non-profits, testing partners, and health care to administer more than 2.5 million COVID tests to a half million people in Dane County and more than 1.1 million doses of COVID vaccine.

In addition, health care workers have shown up every day and have cared for the people in our community who needed care. They have held our loved ones’ hands when we couldn’t hold them ourselves. Every doctor, nurse, and health care worker who has shown up on the frontline during this pandemic are mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, and friends. They continue to step up for their patients throughout many ups and downs, and for that we are forever grateful.

In the spirit of gratitude, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge all of the people in our community who are helping us weather this storm— the Mayor, County Executive, and City and County staff who have provided support to our efforts. And a special shout out to the staff here at the Alliant Energy Center who have worked alongside us to make the services that have been provided here accessible, welcoming and one of the most efficient testing and vaccination sites in the state.

Photo of plaque of certificate of commendation from Governor EversThank you to the many host sites throughout Dane County who have opened up your spaces for us to hold vaccination and testing clinics. To the organizations who have been working diligently to make information about this virus available and accessible - communicating about ways to stay safe and the effectiveness of vaccines, providing resources for those challenged by this pandemic and helping distribute masks. Thank you to the business owners and individuals who enforced and followed our policies to reduce the risk of transmission and the community members who are staying up to date with their vaccines and boosters. Thank you.

As we enter year three of COVID-19, know that your effort does not go unnoticed.

I am so proud to live in a place as strong and resilient as Dane County. Again, Governor Evers, Secretary Timberlake, General Knapp, I want to thank you for your continued support and recognition of our incredibly dedicated team. Thank you."

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