BLOOMFIELD, NJ--It’s been one year since COVID-19 became a household name and forced every household to become closer than ever before. The general public may have been caught by surprise, but the Bloomfield Health Department (BHD) was ready: Planning for pandemics, and other public health events and emergencies, is part of their mandate.

The BHD was recently reaccredited, a comprehensive process that helps the department receive access to resources and collaborate with contractors and other agencies. “Once COVID-19 began, the benefits of being accredited became even more evident,” said Karen Lore, Director of Health and Welfare for the BHD. The BHD has planned in the past for possible pandemics: Lore mentioned H1N1, SARS, and other near misses. The constant planning and preparedness, she said, helped the BHD be ready to help the community for when COVID-19 hit. “Although,” Lore noted, “even under the best of planning, it’s difficult to understand the full scope of something like this until you’re in it.” 

“One of the biggest challenges during COVID-19 has been handling the messaging,” remarked Samantha Bunsa, Director of Health Education. “At times, especially during the early days of COVID-19, the messaging from the federal government wasn’t always clear, and that can be difficult to convey to the public. Messaging in health education is important, and consistency is key. It needs to be accurate and something everyone can follow — it’s important we’re able to get that information out.” 

Both Lore and Bunsa note that the BHD has done an exceptional job ensuring the correct information is communicated to the community. As a department, they are particularly attuned to health equity: Ensuring every citizen has the same access and resources, regardless of circumstances. This has been especially important during the past year: The correct information must be communicated to vulnerable populations.

The BHD works closely with the mayor and city council to ensure the community stays safe and informed. They’re also providing services, including food distribution and home delivery services for those in isolation because of COVID-19. They’ve expanded their services so that people can use the telephone or Zoom to access mental health services, social work services, and more.

The BHD has faced its own challenges: Learning how to work as a blended workforce, with some staff working remotely and some onsite, and how to provide effective community support, like social workers and educators, remotely. Bunsa noted that it’s been a learning process, but they’re functioning better than ever.

You can learn more about the Bloomfield Health Department by visiting http://bloomfieldtwpnj.com under the Government Health and Human Services tab, by calling the main number at 973-680-4024, or by following their Instagram account @bdhhs. They are currently promoting monthly Instagram live events with general health information — follow them for more details!