XENIA — As a mom, she’s grieving alongside her son who’s missing all his senior year milestones.
Prom. Senior picnic. Graduation. A fall college semester up in the air.
As the public information officer for Greene County Public Health, she’s educating residents on the virus that is impacting local families in myriad ways — and how to fight it.
Hand hygiene and social distancing. Cough and sneeze etiquette. Recognizing symptoms and how to get help.
Those are the messages Laurie Fox might be tired of writing by now but keeps pushing.
Because as she puts it — the public craves information.
“And [they] will get it wherever they can, whether it’s right or wrong,” she said by email.
That’s why she’s made it her mission to share timely, accurate information and educate residents so they have the knowledge to keep their own families safe.
“Educating the public about the virus and the pandemic as a whole is so important now more than ever due to the fear, speculation, rumors and misinformation that flows so quickly across social media,” Fox said. “The massive amount of inaccurate information from unreliable sources has been frustrating and discouraging, and it’s a constant battle to remind the public to seek out reputable sources of information like the CDC, the Ohio Department of Health and our website and/or social media platforms.”
Besides fighting misinformation, her job also means fielding questions and complaints.
“When people are scared and uncertain about their immediate future and whether or not they’ll have a job to return to, food on the table or provisions for their children, sometimes they will act out,” Fox explained.
But the pandemic has also brought out the positives in people. Many residents are taking state directives seriously and staying home. They’re making cloth face masks for free, even teaching their kids how to sew. And they’re giving donations to the department and other health care workers.
Two months since a state of emergency was declared in Ohio, the challenges and positives of the COVID-19 crisis continue — as does the education mission of Greene County Public Health.
“We have to continue to provide constant and consistent messaging to reassure the public that we’re going to get through this if we work together to follow the protocols and safety precautions,” Fox said.
The last time the department saw a health emergency of this proportion was during the flu pandemic of 1918. A century later, Fox is witnessing history, from the inside looking out.
That means putting on a face mask, getting her temperature checked when she enters the building, then starting her day — answering media requests, managing social media platforms, updating daily virus numbers online at 2 p.m., and assisting with all pieces of communication.
“I do what I do because I feel it’s my responsibility to give back to the community that has been my home for my entire life … I’m proud to serve the county in this way, to possibly know that because of messages our agency shared, that people took action and lives might have been saved due to that,” she said. “The human race is determined, and like many other tragedies and challenges before, including the 1918 pandemic, we’ll get through this one if we all work together.”
And although her day may look different than others’ — the Xenia High School mom can relate to those who are mourning lost moments.
“Sometimes on the way to and from work, the emotions of all of the changes spill over for me in tears and prayer. We know that this crisis has forever changed our world and how we live in so many ways, and sometimes, changes are hard to accept and understand,” Fox said, in a closing thought. “My husband and I, along with our son, will grieve those senior moments lost and the new reality we are living in, but our trust and faith in God remains strong. That is what keeps me going.”