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Shawnee Co. Health Officer talks plans in first interview



TOPEKA, Kan. – Dr. Erin Locke, new Shawnee County Health Officer, started her role Monday. KSNT spoke with her in her first media interview.

She previously worked as a physician and COVID-19 Incident Command Liaison Officer. She worked with Jackson County leaders to create coronavirus regulations for wearing masks and other county limitations, on top of taking care of patients with coronavirus.

“What that would like for me is interacting with my patients, providing a lot of advice, checking on them.” I actually did testing myself and would see symptomatic patients outside in our curbside clinic,” said Locke. “When we reached the point where basically the hospitals in Topeka and the bigger cities were filling up and we started taking COVID positive patients into our hospital then I was gowning up in all the PPE and taking actual care for COVID patients in our hospital.”

She worked seven days a week creating the epidemiology graphs for the hospital and the county.

Locke’s addition to the department follows the departure of former health officer Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino.

“I cannot continue to serve as the health officer for a board that puts being able to patronize bars and sports venues in front of the health, lives, and well-being of the majority with constituents,” Pezzino said.

Pezzino resigned roughly two weeks early.

Locke believes she and the other commissioners will be aiming to move in the same direction and don’t predict any issues with the commissioners.

“I believe that everybody in the county is working towards the same goal. We all want to be out of this pandemic, and have our lives back again,” said Locke.

As she leads the Shawnee County Health Department, she is also pursuing studies in Climate Change and Health from the Yale Public School of Health, which she says is indicative of her goals to make the future healthier for everyone in the county.