ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced a new plan on Wednesday to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

It’s an initiative called Operation COVID Health Corps to increase contact tracing, conduct more testing, report results sooner, handle high call demand, solve interagency issues related to COVID cases- all in an effort to keep the county open.

The county’s workforce development will hire unemployed workers in the county to fill positions to maintain these efforts.

“Our Health Department team is strong, but they need our help,” said County Executive Pittman.  “To continue our universal contact tracing and case management, our health equity outreach, our enhanced enforcement, and our ambitious work to test two percent of our population weekly, we must engage every county department and deploy residents who are currently out of work.“

He said the “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases among those under 35 years of age is stretching the county’s health resources.

“The Health Department is also working to ensure that those at greater risk receive additional resources;  continuing integrated contact tracing and case management, targeted communication, outreach, testing and support for at risk populations; including African-American and Hispanic communities, targeted testing, PPE and support for populations in congregate settings,” he said.

“Operation COVID Health Corps is essential to help us address the array of public health challenges we face,”said County Health Officer, Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman.  “The real strength behind this multi-faceted approach is that it removes unnecessary silos in county government.

Dr. Kalyanaraman said countywide reinforcements are what it will take to keep the county open and be ready for “tomorrow’s challenges,”

The first leg of the initiative will go through the Office of Personnel, where the staff is “aggressively recruiting” for vacancies and grant-funded positions in the Department of Health.

The second leg will include the county’s Purchasing Office develop a contract with an emergency medical staffing company.

“Operation COVID Health Corps creates multiple employment opportunities while supporting a critical need in Anne Arundel County,” said Kirkland Murray, President & CEO of Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation. “Developing a workforce for this mission is a perfect opportunity for AAWDC to reconnect residents who have lost their jobs to immediate and meaningful employment opportunities.”

The County Executive said he has also asked each agency head to designate three staff members to support the health department for at least 16 hours a week into the foreseeable future.

“The members of the county government workforce have risen to every challenge during this pandemic and I am proud of their resiliency.  Coming together to reinforce the critical work at the Department of Health is just the kind of thing that they do, and I’m grateful for that,” said County Executive Pittman.