Ox Roast grand marshal honors go to health department

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Patty Blake (right), a West Jefferson Community Association trustee, announces the selection of Madison County Public Health as this year’s Ox Roast parade grand marshal. Ashley Palmer (left), a public health nurse, represented the health department at the announcement which took place on Aug. 12 during the association’s annual steak fry. The parade steps off at noon Sept. 4.

(Posted Aug. 31, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Traditionally, the West Jefferson Community Association selects an individual as grand marshal of the annual Ox Roast parade. This year, they broke with tradition and selected an entire organization.

On Sept. 4, representatives of Madison County Public Health (MCPH) will lead the parade through West Jefferson. The association is shining the spotlight on the health department for the work they have done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the drive-through vaccine clinics held earlier this year.

Patty Blake, an association trustee and a registered nurse, volunteered at the vaccine clinics which took place February through May at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center outside of London. That experience and her respect for the way the clinics were run led Blake to nominate MCPH for parade grand marshal.

“It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as a nurse, and I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years,” said Blake, a West Jefferson resident who works at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “The public was so grateful and happy; some cried out of joy when they got the vaccine. They’d roll down their windows as they drove through and say ‘thanks’ to every single one of us working the clinics.”

The health department held 34 drive-through clinics at the Molly Caren Center over the four-month span, administering nearly 20,000 individual vaccinations.

Blake said she was impressed with how smoothly the clinics ran and how dedicated the staff was to the job with which they were tasked.

“They were out here sometimes in horrific weather–cold, blustery, sometimes snowing. They worked after hours and every Saturday for months,” she said. “I have the ultimate respect for everyone who worked out there. They did a stellar job.”

Chris Cook, Madison County health commissioner, said he and the MCPH staff appreciate the association’s recognition.

“We don’t do these things for accolades. We typically sit way under the radar on a non-pandemic day,” he said. “For (the association) to recognize not only what we’ve done for the community as a whole but also specifically for West Jefferson, we are flattered.”

For each three- or four-hour clinic, a team of approximately 45 health department employees and volunteers also put in additional hours doing prep work, cleanup and data entry. Cook said the volunteers were invaluable to the process.

At the clinics’ peak, the team was administering 350 vaccinations per hour. One Saturday, they administered 1,100 shots in three hours.

“Anytime we’re asked to do something, we are going to answer the call,” Cook said, adding that another call likely will come soon in the form of administering third doses of the vaccine. The health department is already administering third doses to individuals who are immunocompromised.

MCPH offers COVID-19 vaccines at its office, 306 Lafayette St., London. Appointments can be booked at appointment.madisonph.org or by calling (740) 852-3065. Days and times are Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

To learn more about this year’s Ox Roast, scheduled for Sept. 4-6 at Garrette Park in West Jefferson, visit https://westjeffoxroast.org/.

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