Rutherford County COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center operators were recognized at an appreciation luncheon this month.
The call center was staffed by employees whose departments were working at half or limited staff due to the pandemic, the vast majority of which were from the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. The center, activated at the end of January 2021, also hired around 15 temporary employees.
“We recognized that our community members were struggling to schedule appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine through the state’s website and public information lines,” said Mayor Bill Ketron. “Some were even having issues with figuring out if they were eligible for vaccine. I wanted to streamline our local process and make it easier for our residents, so I spoke to our Office of Information Technology (OIT) Director about the issue, and shortly thereafter, the call center was in full operations mode.
“It was a honor to work with so many great people striving to help Rutherford County regain a sense of normalcy,” said OIT Director Cody York. “Mayor Ketron saw that the citizens of Rutherford County needed help and took decisive action, forming a great team that was able to adapt to the ever changing situation.”
Set up in the jury room of the new Judicial Center on Lytle Street, operators answered upwards of 41,000 calls while active. The team worked tirelessly, five days a week and half a day on Saturdays. Operators noted several instances where callers were elated and sometimes even emotional to be talking to an actual person on the line and finally being able to schedule a vaccine appointment. Some that called in were frustrated with previous attempts to schedule appointment’s via the state’s systems.
Rutherford County Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Harrell was proud to assist with operations as well as providing space in the Judicial Center for the efforts. “It was truly amazing to be a part of this hard-working team, and knowing that we were doing something to simplify a complicated process for our citizens made it all worthwhile.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Rozlyn Fuller, one of the call center’s operators, who stated, “I have always felt that serving my community was important, so when the call came to help with the COVID hotline, I jumped at the opportunity! I have to say that the people I was able to work beside were stellar, and the leadership was second-to-none. The more I learned, the more I came to respect the Mayor’s decision to get the ball rolling and serve the citizens of our county in a time when information was changing daily at best. Those that he tasked with implementing his goal were passionate about the goal, flexible, and excellent in their jobs. I would gladly do it all over again—without question—as good leaders are easy to follow.”
“We are grateful to Mayor Ketron for his leadership and for establishing the atmosphere of ‘teamwork’ in our county to combat COVID-19,” said Public Safety Director Chris Clark. “We also appreciate how the community has come together to battle COVID-19. With the effort of the personnel at the call center, we were able to increase the efficiency of our vaccine program,” he continued. “The call center personnel worked extremely hard to make sure all callers were scheduled and set to receive their vaccination. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful employees in Rutherford County.”
“Without the help of the call center staff, we would not have been able to handle the extreme call volume and demand for vaccine appointments in Rutherford County,” Public Health Director LaShan Dixon. “The Rutherford County Health Department is especially thankful that these staff members stepped up to the plate to assist us. We cannot thank them enough.”
The call center lines (615) 849-0347 and (615) 898-7997 are still active and will be answered by Rutherford County Health Department personnel Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.