Not everyone is able to self-isolate in this time of the COVID-19 crisis. Schar School Master’s in Public Administration 2016 graduate is one of them. She is an Intake Officer and Monitored Diversion Counselor at the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Here is her story.
It is 6:45 a.m. on a rainy Saturday morning as I await shift exchange outside of the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). As an Intake Officer in the Fairfax Juvenile Court System my team is considered “essential personnel.”
Juvenile Intake is open to the citizens of the county 24/7. We work from the courthouse during the week and from JDC overnight and on weekends. I usually embrace an opportunity to work in the Intake Office at JDC because it allows me the chance to visit with the incredible JDC staff. Unfortunately, today I am hoping to avoid going inside the residential facility as my coworker is forwarding any emergency calls to my office in the courthouse.
Until recently I interpreted “essential personnel” as having to work during county closures due to inclement weather. I have always found going to work on those days exciting as well as comforting knowing my family was safe at home.
COVID-19 has changed the definition of “essential” for me in so many ways. As I left my home this morning, two of the most important people in my world lie sleeping—my 68-year-old husband and my 89-year-old mother—both of whom are very high risk if they become infected by this virus. Prior to today, I had never been concerned that my job may possibly bring them harm. Today, I am concerned with the thought of whether my interaction with individuals who are at high risk of exposure due to their life-style choices could possibly harm those I love the most.
Not only am I essential personnel, but four children whom I have raised and love dearly are as well. They are first responders—two are police officers and two are fire and EMS personnel. My kids run into danger when most are running away from it, yet none of these courageous men and women are effectively protected from a pandemic such as this.
As much as I honor and respect their courage, the mom in me is terrified for their safety. Every morning after their shifts end, I imagine them walking through their front doors embracing their spouses and little children with a hug and kiss. It is at that moment I take a deep sigh, thankful that they made it home alive. I must admit that today I fear these embraces may bring an unwelcomed and dangerous guest into their home. Despite their not being in the “high risk” category due to their age, one never knows how a body will respond to any illness.
As I sit here in my office and read the numerous emails sent to me by my supervisors and administrators, I can’t help but feel proud to be a small part of such an incredible team. Over the past week, this team of passionate and dedicated individuals has worked together to come up with a plan to continue to take care of the community’s needs as well as protect their staff as much as possible.
This week while preparing for our next shift my coworkers and I shared our concerns about putting those we love in danger. Several of those from my team have children with asthma at home, one coworker has a significant auto-immune disorder, others are also taking care of their aged parents. Despite these scary times we continue to work together by communicating through emails and phone calls to ensure the county’s citizens needs continue to be met.
It may be weeks until we physically come together as a team, but when we do, we will know that through sheer determination, courage, and undying passion we have supported and helped Fairfax County citizens maintain a semblance of order during a chaotic time unlike we have ever known.
May God hold and keep us as we weather this storm together.