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HANOVER–The Jo Daviess County COVID Call Center is a busy place. The phones are ringing constantly as individuals call in, hoping to get on a wait list for the vaccine.
Staffed by volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps and others who have asked to help out, the call center has become an essential part of Jo Daviess County’s COVID response in a short period of time.
The call center started slow with 10 calls on Monday, but by Tuesday the call volume hit 75 and increased to over 100 on Wednesday.
“When I got here on Wednesday the phone was ringing and it didn’t stop until 3:30,” said Chuck Pedersen, emergency management director who has been running the call center at the emergency operations center in Hanover.
The center volunteers help callers sign up for appointments, and if Pedersen answers the call, volunteers follow up to get those individuals on the wait list.
Volunteers answer each call and work through a series of questions. The wait list has a set number of vaccines slots assigned each week, while vaccines will still be available to those who qualify in other categories.
“The volunteers are what is making this go,” said Pedersen. “There have been an amazing number of people who have called in and asked to help out. It is a good thing.”
Some volunteers have asked to volunteer the entire day, while most work a three-hour shift.
Pedersen said the call center has been a joint effort between his department, the health department and the GIS/IT department.
“People have been very cooperative and some are just wanting someone to talk to,” said Pedersen. “So many people don’t know what to do to sign up and our volunteers do a great job in getting them registered.”
The volunteers range from county board members to accountants to someone who had previously managed a call center.
Yolanda Lobacz signed up to volunteer because she is bilingual and thought her skill sets might be helpful.
“I was more comfortable coming down here to help after my husband got his shot,” said Lobacz.
Lobacz worked the first three days at the call center and has seen the steady increase in calls.
“It has been great,” said Lobacz. “People are so appreciative. People call in and get their questions answered and are so thankful.”
Even though there are still problems with the online registration, the call center has been running smoothly.
“Our program is very easy to work with,” said Lobacz. “Yesterday, a woman that volunteered mentioned how enjoyable it was. The people who call want someone to talk to rather than having a link on the email or on a website.”
Lobacz said she is shocked by how many elderly in the community have yet to receive a dose of the vaccine.
“I come home every day with a smile on my face knowing that I am helping someone,” said Lobacz. “It is very rewarding.”
Reach the call center by calling 815-591-2673 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.