3 covid deployments

At the beginning of the pandemic, FEMA was tasked with setting up mass vaccination sites and our Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) cadre was called up to provide the needed assistance.

Our first assignment was the St. Louis metro area, but technically we were on the other side of the Mississippi in Belleville, Illinois, working with the St. Clair County Health Department which was understaffed for handling the crush of people wanting to get vaccinated.  Our team was set up in the basement of the county’s Emergency Management Office to man the telephones, and in essence, we became a call center for setting appointments, answering questions, etc.

But this was February and we caught a blizzard! Leslie had never driven in snow (SoCal girl) but quickly got the hang of it. Being an old Minnesota guy, it was fun driving through snow drifts again!

Woke up in the morning to find this – but I knew the blizzard was coming and the locals told me to put my wipers up so they wouldn’t freeze!

Basement of the Emergency office.

Because of Leslie’s help, this lady had delivered this orchid plant to the Emergency Office but to Leslie’s regret, we’d already been transferred to Philadelphia. A team mate took this photo and sent it to Leslie.

A few days later…

After about 3 weeks or so setting up and manning the call center, FEMA sent us to work at the downtown convention center in Philadelphia, handling crowd control in the great hall. There was a crush of people wanting their shot. The line extended out the building and down and around the block, but there was almost a festive, party vibe and the crowd was always good-natured and patient. There was a wide row with 5 folding tables on each side with a corpsman from the Navy doing the shots. We helped direct people to the open tables. Frequently, after getting their shot, young women would literally dance their way back up the aisle towards the exit while the waiting crowd clapped, cheered and yelled. Long days, lots of people, but standing all day.

We weren’t allowed to photograph anything inside. This photo came off the internet.  This was when things were getting set up. The AP comment: A COVID-19 vaccination site is set up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

People wait in line at a FEMA Community Vaccination Center at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This too came off the internet and shows the medics giving the shots. We heard many times they were excellent.

After a month in Philly, FEMA transferred us to Waldorf, MD, just south of Washington, D.C. Each of the three mass vaccination deployments were so different from each other. Waldorf was our first (and only) drive-up deployment. And – this is where we both finally got our shots! Our job was to verify appointments and verify basic medical information with the occupants. After we “cleared” them, they were directed to the next set of tents were the actual shots were given. Nobody got out of the car. Shots could be given through both sides of the vehicle and it was not unusual to have 4 people in a car.

Don slacking off as usual!

Don and Leslie verifying information and answering lots of questions.

Don working with a client.

We worked 7 days a week, rain or shine.

Filed under article topic: FEMA Deployments
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