DeKalb unveils mobile medical units to help during pandemic and beyond

DeKalb County district health director Dr. Sandra Ford (center) speaks during a Dec. 22 press conference announcing the purchase of mobile medical units to help during the pandemic and beyond. She was joined by DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond (left) and DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson (right).

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DeKalb County district health director Dr. Sandra Ford (center) speaks during a Dec. 22 press conference announcing the purchase of mobile medical units to help during the pandemic and beyond. She was joined by DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond (left) and DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson (right).

DeKalb officials unveiled Tuesday the first of 10 vehicles that they hope will be gamechangers for public health in the county — both during the ongoing pandemic and beyond.

Using about $2.8 million from the federal coronavirus aid it received earlier this year, the county purchased four large vans and six even larger mobile medical units for the DeKalb Board of Health (which, despite the moniker, is a state entity).

The vehicles will be deployed for things like COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, district health director Dr. Sandra Ford said. But both now and moving forward, they’ll also be used to help address other public health issues in DeKalb’s underserved communities.

“This is the perfect combination of technology and compassion,” Ford said during a Tuesday morning press conference, flanked by DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond and county Commissioner Larry Johnson.

“They will go throughout this county in the neighborhoods that need them the most and provide not only COVID testing, COVID vaccines, but also chronic care and referrals to our telemedicine program.”

The health department already has one of the vans in its possession, and a second was expected to be delivered later Tuesday. The rest of the vehicles were expected to arrive by the end of the year.

The new vans will be used for things like education and expanding the health department’s mobile farmers market program. The larger mobile medical units — which come with equipment, in-take and examination rooms — will be able to provide even more services to residents with diabetes, hypertension and other conditions that, in addition to presenting their own issues, can create disparate outcomes when combined with illnesses like COVID-19.

The medical units will also help the county health department distribute COVID-19 vaccinations. Ford said smaller long-term care facilities that did not make the distribution lists for CVS or Walgreen’s would likely be their first destination.

“The health, safety and economic well-being of all DeKalb residents are the primary objectives of the county’s response to the pandemic,” Thurmond said. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Ford and her excellent team as partners.”