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Healthcare professionals across the globe have been putting time in around the clock to help combat the global pandemic COVID-19. For Eastern Kentucky University alumna Emma Davis, it has been a surreal past few weeks. But she said she’s just doing her job.

Davis graduated from the University of the Cumberlands with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Public Health. In 2013, she graduated from EKU with a master’s degree in Public Health and moved to Fremont County, Colorado where she took a position as the Public Health Director of the county. 

“Being a director is the most challenging and the most rewarding job in public health in my opinion. You have the opportunity to work in every area of public health and you are ultimately the voice of the community when it comes to health and quality of life,” said Davis.

The Fremont County Department of Public Health and Environment has recently begun drive-through testing of COVID-19 in a school parking lot.

Appointments were made based on referrals from healthcare providers for patients that meet the following testing criteria: healthcare workers, persons 60 and older, immunocompromised or severity of symptoms. 

Participants were required to show a doctor’s order to public health workers through closed vehicle windows before they entered testing lines where officials in personal protective equipment collected nasal specimens.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is occurring, Davis and her team have their hands full with responding to matters concerning the virus, as well as other public health threats such as air quality, poor mental health days and an increase in overdoses and other substance abuse. 

“As a public health director, I’m responsible for the entire scope of public health, not just pandemic responses. We work to protect the public’s health every day. It’s not a nine to five gig, it’s a lifestyle, and public health is critical to every aspect of life,” she said.

This can be a very hectic time for health-care professionals, something that many people take for granted. 

“Between local, state and national phone calls and Zoom meetings, interpreting and implementing new guidelines, directing staff and moving forward to the goal of obtaining some sort of normalcy again, I start my day between five and six a.m., and end my day around seven or eight p.m.,” said Davis, “Now more than ever, I think people are starting to see the importance of having a strong health department and the right people in place.”

Davis credits the Masters of Public Health program at EKU for preparing her for real-world experiences and what to expect in a professional setting. 

“I had great mentors that were honest and were able to guide me into a career that fit my strengths. The EHS program is top notch and I like to brag when I see my professors in the NEHA magazine and their accomplishments,” she said.

Some Americans have questioned whether the response to COVID-19 is justified. But, as someone who has been working the front lines of this pandemic, Emma Davis believes the response is justified.

“I believe the initial steps taken have successfully saved a great deal of lives in my state and across the U.S. We are in this for the long haul, and we have a strong public health system that is agile and adaptable and will do great things in the future ahead,” she said.

This new way of life has been a big adjustment for most Americans, but Davis said we have to remember the thousands of families who lost someone due to COVID-19. She said we owe it to ourselves, our family members, and our neighbors to adapt to this new way of life for a period of time so that we can get back to our normal lives sooner rather than later. 

“Stay at home if you can. We will be able to return to the things we love in time. Expect a new normal and know that we need to take baby steps and have disease control strategies in place so public health can have a shot at controlling disease transmission while simultaneously getting people back to work. It’s been a balance to make equitable and ethical choices,” she said.