Members respond to State’s request for contact tracers

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As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, CBS News reported that Minnesota is leading all states in new cases per 100,000 population. This is why it is especially important MAPE members are volunteering and redeploying to fill much-needed contact tracer positions with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Contact tracers are an important part of the “test, trace and isolate” strategy the State is using to try to contain the virus. 

On. Dec. 9, MDH officials reported 82 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing Minnesota’s death toll to more than 4,100. MDH also confirmed 4,539 new confirmed cases.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Minnesota, MAPE members have stepped up to help this state, their neighbors and their communities. Once again state employees are being called on to help in time of great need. We support contact tracing and are confident MAPE members are up to the task of helping the MN Dept. of Health,” MAPE President Megan Dayton said. 

Local 301’s Matt Lindon was a lakes and rivers scientist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) before he volunteered to be a testing coordinator. He was recently assigned to a MDH team specializing in congregate living including jails, homeless shelters and halfway houses. Lindon said his military career background has served him well in his new position, “I worked on biological weapons and in incident command. I’m happy that my prior training and experience is useful in the current situation,” Lindon said.

Lindon says it “feels good” to be able to go where the need is. “I feel like my job is fulfilling and this is a way to help out in a precedent-setting situation. I appreciate how hard my new colleagues are working – everyone in my MPCA division works really hard to protect water and air. At MDH, staff and epidemiologists have the same passion: they love their state, and are passionate about protecting people with good science,” Lindon added.

Local 2101’s Ross Hoernemann also knows something about protecting people. He is an emergency planner for the Department of Human Services (DHS) and is a volunteer firefighter in Hugo.  

Hoernemann said his supervisor at DHS asked if he’d be interested in redeployment at MDH and he quickly agreed. “I work my emergency planner job at DHS for the first four hours of the day and then I’m with MDH the last four hours,” he said.

Hoernemann has been trained as a contact tracer and investigator and recently was asked to begin training for a special team next week. “I always enjoy doing whatever I can to help the State out. My supervisor at MDH asked me which of seven teams I wanted to be on, and I said, ‘Whatever you needed me to do.’”

Hoernemann urges members to seek redeployment at MDH. “We’re in this together. If you have the capability to do this, do it. You don’t have do it fulltime – help anyway you can to keep COVID-19 from hitting more Minnesotans.”

Kristen Dieterman, a watershed project manager with MPCA in Rochester, was recently deployed fulltime to MDH. “I received a call from my division director, who asked if I was willing to do it, and I said, ‘Yes, why not?’ When I thought about it, if not me, who? I don’t have kids and am not in the middle of a big report. I figured I was pretty much perfect for it,” Dieterman said.

Dieterman admits she was initially a bit nervous about redeployment. “I didn’t know if it meant I would be assigned to staff a COVID-19 facility in southeastern Minnesota or in the Twin Cities. I didn’t find out until recently that I’ll be doing case intake, which can be done remotely. I think more people would volunteer if they knew most redeployment jobs are done remotely.”  

Dieterman said she feels like she is helping, “I haven’t been doing the work very long, but I knew from my recent trainings, a couple of people who’d been redeployed to this work nine months ago, you could tell that their lives and work have been consumed by COVID-19. I can tell they’re tired and, hopefully, they’ll be able to take a break.”  

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