By Vern Davenport, Security Manager, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
I am not a doctor, a nurse, or health care provider of any kind, but I am saving lives and protecting the health of my fellow Ohioans.
I am but one player in our state’s continued battle to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m a critical player – I drive a truck. I work with my colleagues in BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) and with the state’s Emergency Operations Center to deliver ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care settings, hospitals, and front-line workers across our state.
That’s not what I signed up for at BWC – as security manager, my role is the safety and security of all BWC buildings – but I couldn’t be prouder to serve in this role today. I’m even more proud to report this milestone: My SID colleagues and I just passed a huge milestone – delivering more than 3.5 million pieces of PPE and other essential equipment as we hit the one-year mark of COVID-19 in our lives. This includes face masks, protective gowns, face shields, sanitizer, pop-up testing equipment, and more.
I’m like many in our agency who pivoted in March 2020 to help our state defeat COVID-19 in any way we could. We’ve sent millions of masks to Ohio businesses, returned $8 billion in dividends to those same businesses, and lent our customer service specialists to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services when unemployment claims soared.
When the pandemic sent most of us home to telework, it freed me and others in SID to contribute in other ways.
Every state agency has representatives in Ohio’s Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates the COVID-19 response. BWC has been asked consistently to fill in the delivery gaps, so I’ve taken pallets of PPE and other supplies to every corner of the state, including viral test kits to Cleveland and equipment to build pop-up test sites in Cincinnati. On a run in late February, I dropped off 259,000 face masks in Cleveland on behalf of the Department of Aging.
For me, each delivery is a source of pride because I know how critical these items are to the health and safety of every Ohioan.
It’s not just the state agencies pulling together, though. Individuals and businesses throughout Ohio have stepped up. I’ve picked up gallons of hand sanitizer made at a Cleveland microbrewery and delivered it to a National Guard distribution center in Columbus. Another mission took me to a Columbus paper plant, which had shifted its production to making masks and donated them to the state. We truly are #InThisTogether.
I drove a box truck for a food distributor for 14 years, so this “new” role isn’t so new to me. The only difference now is I wear a tie every day, as I’ve always done since joining BWC in 1994. I like wearing it and the professionalism it brings. The folks at the warehouses I frequent shout, “Hey, it’s The Tie Guy!”
That kind of lighthearted banter is what we all need. The pandemic’s emotional toll is every bit as concerning as the physical, and it’s important we lift each other up. So no matter where I go, I smile. I ask how people are and thank them for the job they’re doing.
For many of us in state government, the pandemic has redefined what we do and how we do it. I could not be prouder to get behind the wheel and represent BWC in this noble work.
Vern Davenport is the security manager for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, overseeing the safety and security of all BWC buildings statewide. He first joined the agency as a security contractor in 1994 and was hired as an employee in 2004.