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Social worker dialed in to Saratoga County’s COVID-19 concerns

Rising to the Challenge

Social worker dialed in to Saratoga County’s COVID-19 concerns

Monitoring group maintains daily contact with patients
Social worker dialed in to Saratoga County’s COVID-19 concerns
Ashley Hubbard works at her desk in the county offices, where she has been temporarily assigned to the Public Health Department.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  

SARATOGA COUNTY — COVID-19 has shifted everything: our priorities, our routines, our job descriptions. 

Ashley Hubbard can certainly attest to that last one.

The Ballston Spa native has spent the past five years working as a social welfare examiner at Saratoga County’s Department of Social Services. The bulk of her days was spent helping people with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. 

During the past few weeks, though, her job has been turned upside down by the virus. Hubbard volunteered to assist with the county’s COVID-19 response effort and has been transferred to the county’s Department of Public Health.

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While there, she’s been part of the COVID-19 monitoring group, which keeps track of not only those who test positive for the virus but those who are in quarantine. It involves making hundreds of phone calls each week, ensuring that each resident in quarantine or isolation is checked on every day and that their condition is recorded. 

In mid-April, The Gazette spoke with Hubbard between her daily phone calls to residents. She told us about what life on the job has been like, and what she wants people to understand about the virus. 

Q: What’s it been like to shift to the public health sector at this time?

A: As far as being on the phone constantly, I am used to that. So that wasn’t hard for me, but [the job] is completely different. Especially given what’s going on. There’s different questions and circumstances. 

Overall, I work with great people; the women here are all awesome. It’s been a trying time for everyone, but it’s been good to work with them and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help out.

Q: You’re part of the monitoring group, correct? What does that look like on a day-to-day level?

A: Yup. So anyone who is in either [mandatory] quarantine or has tested positive in Saratoga County, we contact them every day, check on them and see how they’re doing. 

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: Are you mostly asking about their symptoms? 

A: Right. We ask them [if they have a fever, how they’re feeling] every single day just to [see] whether or not they’re doing better. We always follow up. 

Q: Because you’re talking with these people every day, do you get to know them?

A: Yeah, I would say so. We get to check with them for a few minutes or so and answer any questions that they may have. Everyone that we talk to, they’re super-friendly and very understanding, so that also makes it easier for us. 

Q: What have been some of the challenges in checking in on everyone?

A: I would just say you feel bad for anyone who is feeling really sick. It’s hard to talk to them one day and they say they’re feeling great, only to turn around [and] say that they’re not feeling great the next day.

I also just feel for them because this is unmarked territory for everyone, so the unknown is concerning to people on top of that as well. That’s the most challenging part about it, and then obviously making these calls every day. That can be hard. But it’s worth it. We’re here to help out as much as we can. 

Q: On average, how many calls a day are you making?

A: It all depends, especially if we have new people coming [in] on top of the calls that we have, but probably around 100, maybe a little more than that a day. 

Q: Have there been any rewarding cases where people have started to sound better as the days go on?

A: Yeah, and I know it brings them comfort too, especially with us checking in on them. You notice with some individuals that weren’t doing so well [on] day one, and then come day seven or even day 10 they feel so much better. 

Q: What sort of questions do the people you’re monitoring usually ask?

A: When their mandated quarantine or isolation is going to be lifted, what happens after that, what they can and can’t do. Those are the typical questions that we get every day. 

 

Q: How have you seen this virus impact your community?

A: I think that for the most part, people are taking it seriously, which is helpful, especially [because we’re] trying to suppress this as much as possible with social distancing and with people staying home. Those are the things that I’ve been seeing here in Ballston Spa.

I just notice a lot of people aren’t out and they are staying home. That’s super-important, and it’s good to know that people are taking this seriously and that they’re just listening to what the government and the CDC [are] telling them, it’s comforting to know. 

[I’ve also seen people] coming together doing the parades for school, still trying to deliver meals for any kids if they were receiving free or reduced lunch. So it is comforting to know that the community is working together to help individuals out, especially during these trying times. 

Q: As you’re making all these calls, do you ever get worried about some of the people you used to assist over at Social Services?

A: Certainly that does cross my mind, but if they are eligible and still receiving their benefits then that’s also helping to support them.

But I know that this is difficult, especially for those who aren’t working right now. There’s probably a lot more pressure and stress than there normally would be for them. But it’s good to know that they have other services that can help them during these times as well. 

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: Is there anything you want people to know about preventing the spread of COVID-19? 

A: [I think it’s all about] practicing social distancing and staying home as much as you can. Even though it looks like it’s getting better right now, [let’s] maintain this as long as we can. The longer that people do that, the faster that this will be done. 

I think most people are doing that, but I just hope that people continue to do that because even though it may seem that everything’s OK, we don’t know that for sure. It’s better safe than sorry.

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