Volunteer Program Bolsters Local Pandemic and Emergency Response Efforts

In a year where communities have come together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 650 volunteers have registered with the Southwest Colorado unit of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). MRCs are community-based units of both medically trained and non-medical volunteers. Under the MRC program, volunteers are organized and deployed to strengthen the response to public health emergencies and natural disasters. Volunteers can also be deployed to improve emergency preparedness and advance critical public health initiatives.

The Southwest Colorado Regional Medical Reserve Corps is one of 27 MRC units in Colorado. Before 2020, the Southwest Colorado Regional Medical Reserve Corps’ membership stood at 10 volunteers, it has now spiked to more than 650 people from a variety of backgrounds.

“We have an enormous number of volunteers supporting us in our vaccination and testing efforts,” said Lori Zazzaro, who leads the MRC unit as SJBPH’s Emergency Manager. “The outpouring of support that we’ve gotten from the MRC is incredible. It’s uplifting to see the community dedicating so much of their time to keeping their neighbors safe and healthy.”

In recent months, local MRC volunteers have aided with everything from case investigation and contact tracing to helping administer vaccines at clinics and performing COVID-19 testing. Recently, the MRC’s work helped propel vaccination rates in Southwest Colorado to the highest in the state. More than 35% of residents in both Archuleta and La Plata counties have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to disease outbreaks, the Southwest Colorado Regional MRC can provide critical reserve capacity to respond to other emergencies affecting public health, such as wildfires or flooding.

“What a nice thing to be a part of a community, one that comes up with hundreds and hundreds of people who are willing to give up every Saturday all day to help their community,” said Randall Hertzman, a local MRC volunteer who has been part of the emergency response since last June. “It’s just reinforced in my head how great this community is,” Hertzman added.

Aside from emergency response, the MRC can also be called on for emergency preparedness, community resilience, eliminating health disparities, increasing health literacy, and promoting disease prevention. Growth of the local MRC during the pandemic will help Southwest Colorado be better prepared for future public health emergencies and natural disasters for years to come.

To get more information or volunteer with the Southwest Colorado Regional Medical Reserve Corps visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/volunteer/.