Friday, January 8, 2021 - by Don Foley, Cleveland State Community College
In the fight against COVID-19, the first wave of immunizations are being given to the elderly and front line healthcare workers. It has been estimated that more than 27 million vaccinations will need to be distributed and administered to cover all of our nation’s front line heroes.
For one Cleveland State Community College Nursing instructor who worked the front lines New Year’s weekend, the number of vaccines administered each day is not the only factor that is playing a part in the process.
After spending the day working the drive-thru lines at the Health Department Vaccination Pod in Southern Rhea County on Jan. 2, Maureen Baksh-Griffin estimates she vaccinated 75-100 people. “Some of the people were waiting in the drive-thru lines for hours just for the chance to be vaccinated,” said Ms. Griffin. “But, regardless of the wait, most of the people were so grateful for the opportunity.”
On-the-ground sites across Southeast Tennessee are in place to administer the COVID-19 vaccinations. Ms. Griffin, a member of the COVID-19 Strike Team for Tennessee’s Southeast Region, said when it comes to how to fight this virus, it’s about so much more than just a shot.
“The drive-thru lines we had set up presented many issues,” said Ms. Griffin. “The people coming to see us are either getting tested or vaccinated. So, that requires two separate lines. That means more space is needed. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are busy, as well. But, executing this kind of operation on the ground also requires coordinating registering patients, getting health histories, checking identification, swabbing patients, and even directing traffic.”
The Southeast Region COVID-19 Strike Team covers the counties of Bledsoe, Bradley, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Meigs, McMinn, Polk, Rhea, and Sequatchie. “It’s a temporary team which supports and augments the local county health departments during this pandemic,” added Ms. Griffin. “Sometimes, we set up on the site of health departments, sometimes it is at churches, or just anywhere with plenty of space.” As of now, Ms.Griffin will serve on this team through June 2021. “My main job is to help recruit people to work on the Strike Team.”
Emergency Management and Public Health specialists are working together to help service the people of Southeast Tennessee. For the Cleveland State Nursing instructor, and the hundreds of others helping at these locations in our region, it’s about trusting one another.
“It’s also about the side issues these healthcare professionals are having to address to make sure each person receives the proper treatment,” said Ms. Griffin. “From worrying about contamination between testing and vaccination patients to everyday obstacles like running out of gas while waiting in line. There’s plenty to handle to treat each person in so many different ways to get the job done. So, in the end, it’s about having the trust of the people that makes it all possible.”
Trusting Ms. Griffin with COVID-19 and everything it has become is a wise choice. The Chattanooga resident has been a student of pandemics for 25 years. “In 1995, I read The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett,” added Ms. Griffin. “Soon after, I began taking courses leading to nursing school. I came to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville from New York City in 2009 for graduate studies in Global Disaster Nursing. Now, a decade later, I’m able to apply the concepts I’ve studied in real time.”
With plans of returning to New York City in 2020 to help with the pandemic, Ms. Griffin would put that on hold the help serve and treat the people of Southeast Tennessee. Two former New York City colleagues of Ms. Griffin, a physician and a nurse, both lost battles of their own with COVID-19 this past year.
“My faith has taught me to respond wherever I see a need,” said Ms. Griffin. “As a member of Cleveland State Community College, my aim is to serve where I am needed, when I am needed.” Ms. Griffin joined Cleveland State in 2012. Prior to joining the college, the Chattanooga resident served as a staff nurse at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.
Ms. Griffin, along with the rest of the Cleveland State Community College Nursing faculty and staff, will be moving into the region’s newest medical training facility this spring. At Cleveland State’s new Health and Science Center, Ms. Griffin will be able to play a part in training the next generation of healthcare professionals to be ready for whatever may come our way in the years to come.