COVID-19 Battles Are Local

by Robin Wilcox, MPA


The war against COVID-19 is international and national. But the battlefields are local. Accredited state, county, and city health departments are on the front lines of working to keep residents healthy.

On March 16, PHAB-accredited Santa Clara County Public Health Department in California issued an historic seven-county legal order that required residents to “shelter-in-place,” the first of its kind in the country. Santa Clara County had recorded the seventh case of coronavirus in the US.

On March 12, about a week before La Crosse County, Wisconsin, had its first positive COVID-19 test result, the PHAB-accredited La Crosse County Health Department launched the incident command system, soliciting travel history information from community members as well as fielding questions from concerned residents, while maintaining consistent messaging about regulations, testing qualifications, and quarantine requirements.

Also in March, a Columbus, Ohio, retailer launched its “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” T-shirt campaign, specifically calling out the PHAB-accredited Ohio State Department of Health director, whom they described as a “voice of reason and a beacon of light for those of us looking for ways to act.” 

Through national standards, the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) has provided a roadmap for how health departments promote health in their communities every day—and especially in times of public health emergencies. Health departments have provided the leadership and science to support governments and residents as we confront COVID-19.

The next phase of health departments’ response to COVID-19 depends on their capacity to effectively scale up contact tracing. PHAB has released COVID-19 Contact Tracing Checklists that itemize key elements of a COVID-19 contact tracing program and can be used by health departments to track if those elements are in place or under development and who has the lead role. The checklists are tools for planning the rapid expansion of contact tracing programs. They are evidence-based, drawing from multiple resources, including the Disease Intervention Specialist Certification Project Final Report to the CDC (prepared by the Public Health Accreditation Board, June 2017), CDC’s “Contact Tracing: Part of a Multi-Pronged Approach to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and, of course, the PHAB Standards and Measures.

PHAB applauds state and local departments for their commitment to protecting the health of their residents. PHAB will continue to provide support and tools as departments work tirelessly, on the ground, to contain the spread of COVID-19.


Robin Wilcox, MPA

Robin Wilcox, MPA, is the Chief Program Officer of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial public health departments. Ms. Wilcox joined PHAB in August 2007. [Full bio]