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Unsung Hero: Jackson County Health Department

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MURPHYSBORO, IL (WSIL) -- Workers at a local healthcare facility showed appreciation for the Jackson County Health Department for their efforts during the pandemic.

Local health departments play a vital role in the health of the community and its members. SIU Family Medicine in Carbondale wanted to make sure staff at the health department and its Administrator, Bart Hagston, were thanked. The two groups have paired together for many programs in the past and came together again to tackle COVID-19.

The health department is in charge of facilitating testing, giving results, placing people in isolation/quarantine, and contact tracing. Those duties evolved over the past year, with a lot of information going out to the public and schools. Then the vaccine rolled out in December of 2020.

"We've got a great team here who have worked together, and I think they have {really} shown what they are made of," said Bart Hagston, Jackson County Health Department Administrator.

Leigh Ann Keyser and Coral Cerrato work at SIU Family Medicine. Both witnessed the Jackson County Health Department, and Hagston put in countless hours at clinics and working nights and weekends, which they said was critical to the success of the county during the pandemic.

"Health Department do a whole lot for the community. A lot of people don't even know that the health department is behind that. So, as multiple health departments did amazing things through this pandemic, we just wanted to center on ours and thank them for all the hours they put in and the job that they did. It was well, well done," said Cerrato.

"I think that was reflected in what the {Ilinois} Governor did by coming down and personally thanking Jackson County for their efforts. We {just} want to echo that. They did an amazing job, and we just were proud to be part of it to help out southern Illinois," added Keyser.

Hagston said his staff logged 50,000 hours into the pandemic. He said many of the everyday health care needs had to take a backseat over the past 15-months. He said his staff was dedicated, flexible, and able to adjust on the fly, especially with information constantly changing.

"I give kudos to our staff, but I also give kudos to the people of Jackson County who I think have done an exceptional of social distancing, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, all of those things. Without the help from the public, we can't do any of what we've done here," added Hagston.

Keyser and Cerrato said the health department gave advice, critical information, and promptly, which was important for making decisions on how they ran their facility.

Bart said with everything a little more under control, the health department is already gearing up for back-to-school needs.

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Evie Allen

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