The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Damon Seils is a member of the Carrboro Town Council.
As we begin Phase 2.5 of North Carolina’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to avoid feeling like we’re entering another long season of unknowns. What we do know is the end isn’t yet in sight. We have to continue our collective work to slow the spread in our community.
Rather than offer a traditional opinion column, I wanted to highlight the work of the two people leading Orange County’s pandemic response. Quintana Stewart is the Orange County health director, and Dinah Jeffries is the Orange County emergency services director. They agreed to answer a few questions.
Seils: You are the leaders of the local response to the pandemic. What are your roles, and how do you work together?
Stewart: As the county health director, I promote public health and prevention activities. I’m also charged with communicable disease control. This requires my team and I to investigate cases and outbreaks and to implement control measures to slow the spread of the disease.
Jeffries: The key words are “working together.” Our teams have different missions, and the two of us communicate frequently to assure our teams have the support they need. My team’s role is to ensure the safety of residents and responders and the continuity of services. We connect all the response partners and agencies so they complement each other and avoid duplicating efforts. We are also the county’s connection to state and federal assistance.
Seils: How is Orange County different from or similar to other communities in North Carolina when it comes to the pandemic response?
Stewart: Orange County has a diverse population. We must be mindful of language and other cultural differences as we share public health messages. We are also home to the UNC System’s largest school, which means we have a robust college town. Like other communities across the country, ours is concerned about economic stability and the social norms that have been affected during this unprecedented time. Our differences afford us the opportunity to be creative and innovative in our approaches as we work on our common goal of suppressing the virus.
Jeffries: Orange County is fortunate to have the resources we have and the support of government leaders and partners. I think every community has unique challenges, but I strongly believe every community is recognizing how dependent we are on one another. The pandemic has challenged my team to be creative and flexible while continuing to provide the excellent service the community has grown to expect.