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Inside scoop from a public health pro

By Leslie Carto, External Communications Director

Even when you think you’ve unplugged, news and information about COVID-19 continues to bombard you. And while there are a handful of examples of evidence-based science tweaking the message, for the most part it’s the same story: wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your distance.

But it’s our job to bring you more.

Luckily, we know people.

Chip Cohlmia is the Jackson County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Prevention and Public Health Preparedness Division Manager. He earned his master’s degree in Public Health. In other words, he’s the guy to know during a pandemic. “It’s one of those things that you hope never happens,” said Cohlmia, “like having to use the survival skills learned in the Boy Scouts.”

But it’s 2020, so it looks like we’re all going to have to build a raft out of tiny twigs.

Cohlmia has been with the Jackson County Health Department for about two and a half years. Since COVID-19 hit the metro, the hours have grown exponentially longer for the entire team. He appreciates the role public health plays in keeping communities safe, and hasn’t gotten tired of communicating proven prevention tips. “Public health is all about, ‘Hey, make sure you wash your hands,’ ‘vaccinate your kids,’ ‘stay home if you’re sick.” But when there’s a pandemic, people turn to us and say, ‘okay, sorry. What were we supposed to do?’”

So the public health team takes time to answer questions and concerns from a growing number of people who now are well versed on topics like virus transmission, COVID-19 testing, quarantine, isolation, or immunity. “It’s nice when people are showing interest in it (public health), but are still willing to listen to the experts,” he said.

Which leads us to the inside scoop. Surely, Cohlmia has information that will accurately predict the end of the pandemic. Or if not, some prevention tip that only the professionals know.

Turns out not.

He, and his public health colleagues, aren’t holding back any information. The recommendations to stopping the spread remain the same:

Wear a mask when in public

Keep your distance from other people when in public (at least six feet)

Wash your hands often

And stay home if you are ill

He also recommends using reputable, science based sources of information to guide your decisions. His tried and true is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

And says that as we head into the traditionally busy Influenza Season, people get their seasonal flu vaccine.

To read more about how the Jackson County Health Department is keeping the community healthy, please visit