County of Marin - News Releases - Disaster Service Workers

For Immediate Release
April 16, 2020

County Employees Step Up to Pandemic Challenge

Disaster Service Workers providing critical services during COVID-19 emergency

San Rafael, CA – In times of emergency, people turn to their governments. Assistance during and after a crisis is one of the biggest reasons why government exists.

A woman (right) gives directions to a man (left) standing outside of a vehicle after he has put on protective smock, gloves and a mask in preparation for driving somebody to a COVID-19 testing location.A supervisor from the Emergency Operations Center (right) gives direction to a Disaster Service Worker who is preparing to drive a resident to a COVID-19 testing location.

The County of Marin’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) includes public safety, public health, administrative and many Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) personnel supporting the County’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines. There’s also an Administrative Department Operations Center helping to ensure the County can continue its other essential services with technology, human resources, planning coordination, and support to the EOC.

In addition, more than 100 County employees are playing key roles during the pandemic response that are different from the roles they played in the pre-COVID-19 world. They are Disaster Service Workers (DSWs), as are all public employees in the State of California. 

About 80% of the County workforce is conducting business in offices, in the field, or from home using videoconferencing technology. While many continue in regular assignments – emergency dispatchers, firefighters, Sheriff’s deputies, probation officers, social service workers, mental health professionals, and many more – DSWs switch gears and provide high-priority safety-net services to help our residents in need.

For more than a month now, County DSWs have answered the call to handle a variety of roles, such as:

  • assisting with childcare registration for health care workers, emergency responders, and essential workers;
  • coordinating with hospitals and other health care facilities in the management of health policies;
  • staffing a shelter for homeless individuals;
  • staffing a call center to answer resident questions;
  • tracing the paths of confirmed COVID-19 patients and contacting those who might have been exposed;
  • staffing food distribution sites to provide food access throughout the county, and;
  • shopping and delivering supplies to seniors and others with mobility limitations.

County employees learn of the DSW role upon accepting a government job and going through the onboarding process. They know that any sort of widespread emergency could result in them placing normal duties on hold and pivoting toward a much-needed emergency response role.

Dana Armanino is a Principal Planner who normally manages the Community Development Agency Sustainability Team. Typically, she focuses on long-term environmental planning such as the County’s Climate Action Plan, renewable energy projects, green building policy, and electric vehicle charging projects. As a DSW during COVID-19, she’s the Plans Section Chief in the EOC. She’s running meetings, updating spreadsheets, and developing next-day action plans while staying in contact with public health officials and other DSWs both inside and outside the County family.  

“I feel really good about my contribution,” Armanino said. “It’s nice to have an important role to play, be involved, and put my skills to use. This way, the folks in the field and in public health can do their jobs knowing they’re being supported. Maybe I’m taking some of the weight off them.”

Out “in the field,” Leelee Thomas and Hasani Moore are among the DSWs assisting at a motel that is housing some of the communities’ most vulnerable. The temporary residents were offered rooms so they could shelter in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Normally, Thomas is a CDA Planning Manager who handles housing policy and federal grants. Moore works with Marin HHS and the nonprofit Community Action Marin on case management and assistance for adults with serious mental illnesses. Now, Thomas is managing the temporary housing and Moore is on overnight duty reassuring residents and reminding them to wash their hands and practice social distancing.

“It’s amazing and inspiring to see people from all walks of County life saying, ‘Yes, we can get that done,’” Thomas said. “Things happen at lightning speed. It’s pretty awesome to see what the County is providing folks, especially those who are most vulnerable and in need.”

“The coolest part,” Moore said, “is seeing people who have been out on the street now getting housed, at least temporarily, and hearing them be appreciative of that.”

County Administrator Matthew Hymel said he is “proud and grateful” for the entire County effort. “As we adapt to this unprecedented emergency like everyone else, I see so many DSWs working at new worksites, with new duties, supporting the County’s response to the pandemic,” he said. “Our residents look to us most when times are hard, and I see our employees stepping up to meet the challenge every single day.” 


Angela Nicholson
Assistant County Administrator
County Administrator's Office

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 325
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-4396
Email: Angela Nicholson
County Administrator website