Governor Wolf is honoring nine employees from the Office of Administration (OA) and Department of Health (DOH) for their efforts to deliver timely, relevant and actionable data to inform public health and policy decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neil Berney, Paul Dioguardo, Mark Dittman, Howard Eckman, Matthew Freeze, Bryan Harker, William Pugh and Susan Stockwell of OA and Brian Wright of DOH are among 51 employees across 10 state agencies who will be recognized at a virtual ceremony on May 5 for extraordinary accomplishments in 2020.
“Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is built on a foundation of science and data,” said Governor Wolf. “The work of these employees to support the daily collecting, compiling and reporting of new data was incredibly value to me and other leaders as we strived to protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic put unprecedented demands on the technology and infrastructure supporting critical Department of Health systems,” said Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome. “These employees have worked tirelessly on enhancements to increase the capabilities and capacity of these systems to meet the needs of the department and the public. All of this, while working remotely and continuing to fulfill their regular job duties.”
“The Department of Health has provided more data on a more frequent basis than ever before as part of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “This has been part of our commitment to being transparent with case information, testing information and vaccine information. The work done by these award winners shows the dedication of state employees to the public, and to public health in Pennsylvania.”
Key accomplishments include:
COVID-19 Case and Test Data Collection
Team members assisted with onboarding a massive influx of new users, including hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, schools, testing sites and others that needed to submit data on COVID-19 outbreaks and test results to the department.
From March 1 to December 20, the disease surveillance system processed nearly 10 million reports, compared to 688,000 during the same period in 2019, while the number of lab reports grew to a peak of over 560,000 per week during pandemic from approximately 15,000 per week beforehand.
The employees also implemented a portal for labs to order COVID-19 testing supplies instead of using paper order forms. Over 35,000 orders have been processed through the new portal since October. This included orders for the state’s public health lab, which went from processing approximately 47 test samples per day to over 500 samples per day during the pandemic.
COVID-19 Case and Test Data Reporting
Using data from the disease monitoring and lab reporting systems, the employees oversaw the creation of daily reports and updates for the Secretary of Health, Governor, COVID-19 data dashboards, COVID AlertPA mobile app and media outlets. This often required them to work through the night to monitor processes or respond to technical issues. The reports created from this data provide an exceptional level of transparency to the public, as well as enabling the administration to make critical decisions in response to the rapidly evolving circumstances of the pandemic.
Optimizing Performance and Delivering Exceptional Customer Service
The team made enhancements to the disease monitoring and lab reporting systems to send data to new systems implemented for COVID-19, accept additional data from providers and improve system performance under increasing workloads.
Among the most visible of these efforts was the move to an upgraded server to improve response times and accommodate continued increases in data volume. The team worked throughout December to prepare and test the new server prior to implementing it over the first weekend in January with minimal system downtime.
Along with their its exceptional technical expertise, the team worked closely with DOH program staff to understand and anticipate future needs, manage fast-moving projects and identify and secure funding through Department of Health grants for new hardware, as well as the new COVID Alert PA mobile app and contact tracing system.