Pierce County announcement.
The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) awarded the 2022 IAEM-USA Business and Private Sector Integration and Public Sector Partnership Award to Pierce County Department of Emergency Management and Bird’s Eye Medical for the partnership that tested and vaccinated thousands of people since 2020. The IAEM-USA Business and Private Sector Integration and Public Sector Partnership Award recognizes excellence in the integration of public/private emergency management partnerships.
Pierce County Department of Emergency Management (PCDEM) activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The department and its staff were in continuous activation until March 2022. In July 2020, the department started a mass testing program and subsequently formed a partnership with Bird’s Eye Medical to provide health care staff to administer the tests. PCDEM staff managed the planning, logistics and public awareness campaign of the low-barrier testing sites, including a school-based testing program. The efforts resulted in more than 229,000 tests being administered from July 2020 to March 2022. The sites were mostly held outdoors and allowed people to stay in their vehicles while getting tested. The program was designed to rotate around the community, appointments were not necessary, and people did not need to be symptomatic to get tested. Reducing barriers to testing was an important goal.
In January 2021, the partnership opened its first mass vaccination event at the Washington State Fairgrounds. More than 2,000 people were vaccinated at the event. Staff watched people dance, cry and thank them as they got their vaccines. The last vaccine was delivered in the dark under work lights to make sure all doses were administered. PCDEM and Bird’s Eye Medical continued the effort for months in 2021 with staff often outside in the cold or heat to provide as many vaccinations as possible. Like the testing sites, these mass vaccination sites were intended to operate as low barrier as possible. People stayed in their cars while they waited to get vaccinated. The sites moved throughout the community to make it easier for people to leave home and find a vaccination site.
“This partnership saved lives and brought comfort to our community during an extraordinary time,” said Jody Ferguson, director of Pierce County Emergency Management. “There were many long days for this department’s staff and our friends from Bird’s Eye Medical to bring these programs to the community. The staff of both organizations working together so well made a difference that will have a positive impact for years. It is with a sense of gratitude for us to accept this award from our peers in emergency management.”
By July 1, 2021, when the last mass-vaccine event was held, the partnership had vaccinated more 95,500 people.
“Responding to an unprecedented pandemic understandably presented significant challenges for the existing healthcare infrastructure and emergency management. With the leadership of Pierce County’s Department of Emergency Management, our partnership leveraged one another’s strengths and expertise to rapidly deploy medical countermeasures that saved lives and made our communities safer. The honor of this award is a celebration of the truest spirit of collaboration and teamwork, exemplified by many throughout the pandemic response,” said Patrick Hastings, chief operating officer of Bird’s Eye Medical.