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These volunteers with Sonoma County’s COVID-19 response are indispensable

It could fairly be said that volunteer doctors and nurses and other medical professionals, as well as legions of good Samaritans who don’t work in a medical profession, are giving local efforts to protect people from COVID-19 an indispensable shot in the arm.

The magnitude of the crisis posed by the pandemic, and of the mass vaccination campaign, have left the health system in stark need of more hands. Scores of volunteers have extended theirs.

“We have 10 projects going on right now,” said Claire Etiene, Sonoma County’s coordinator of the national Medical Reserve Corps volunteer program. Volunteers are essential to them all.

Since the pandemic arrived in this region, Etienne said, 650 Medical Reserve Corps volunteers have pitched in with county’s multilayered response to the pandemic.

The volunteers, most but not all of them active or retired medical professionals, have done contact tracing, N95 mask fit testing and vaccinating of fellow volunteers and employees of the Sonoma County Office of Education. They’ve also staffed the COVID-19 hotline, packed and transported vaccine materials and assisted with tech work at the Public Health Lab.

“About 130 of them have put in some 10,000 hours since March,” Etienne shared.

The federal government created the Medical Reserve Corps shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Anyone interested in volunteering locally or learning more can go to the state’s Disaster Healthcare Volunteers website, www.healthcarevolunteers.ca.gov.

Once a potential volunteer is registered, he or she can call the Sonoma County Public Health Department at 707-565-4496 to arrange to complete a county volunteer application and to schedule an orientation and swearing-in.

Many health professionals and others eager to assist the local response to the pandemic have volunteered directly with local health care organizations that include the West County Health Centers.

“Within the first two weeks, we had over 300 volunteers sign up,” said Dr. Rain Moore, chief medical officer of the nonprofit, Guerneville-based health agency.

“Our volunteers have been essential to the whole thing, every step,” said Moore, who oversaw a vaccination clinic Saturday at Guerneville School, and the day before was among the West County Health Centers staffers and volunteers who administered vaccines to 495 people at Analy High School in Sebastopol.

Volunteers with West County Health Centers are greeting and registering the people to be vaccinated, administering shots, monitoring those who were vaccinated for adverse reactions, even visiting homebound seniors to vaccinate them.

“One hundred percent,” said Moore. “We could not do it without them.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at West County Health Centers vaccination clinics can visit its website, https://www.wchealth.org/news/covid-19-vaccine/volunteer-vaccination-clinic/

Dr. Moore said the need is greatest for volunteers who speak Spanish, and for clinicians interested in watching for adverse reactions in people who’ve just been vaccinated.

Editor’s note: This version of the story corrects one erroneous reference to the name of West County Health Centers.

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