How Stephanie Marquez’s Public Health Degree Has Shaped Her Role in the City’s COVID-19 Response

The global pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the importance of directing staff and resources to the right place at the right time. In the best of times, these decisions are important, but with COVID-19, these decisions affect the health and welfare of our communities, our colleagues and our families. Stephanie Marquez knows from firsthand experience how important these decisions are and what goes on behind the scenes as these decisions are being made.

“The pandemic is pretty fascinating to me as someone who studied public health,” says Marquez, referring to her undergraduate studies in Public Health at UC Berkeley. “I wanted to go into public service to help get resources to those in need.” Marquez is first generation Mexican American and growing up in San Francisco’s Mission District she had family that worked in construction and other trades that don’t have the option of working remotely. “In school, I saw how data informed public health decisions,” she says reflecting back, “and now more than ever we need to protect and support the most vulnerable in our community.” Which helps explain how she went from studying public health to serving in the SFPUC’s Departmental Operations Center (DOC).

Marquez works on the Security side of the Emergency Planning and Security (EPS) team. It’s no surprise she was one of the first called up to support the SFPUC’s pandemic response the first week of March. Her initial duties involved updating the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), which defines critical staff, operations and actions necessary to maintain safe operations and provide a framework for responding to the pandemic.

Stephanie Marquez works on the SFPUC’s Emergency Planning and Security team.

“In my regular position, I am responsible for administering security systems, access control and surveillance at our facilities,” says Marquez. “Yes, I’m still working on those areas, but I’ve been rotating in as the Operations Chief and supporting the DOC for the last couple of weeks.” Marquez admits it’s a balancing act, but she says the EPS team and the DOC have been extremely supportive with the quick learning curve that comes with responding as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW). For Marquez, it just adds a bit more excitement to an already busy schedule. She isn’t just juggling her “normal” job and rotating through the DOC, she’s also adjusting to virtual classes for her Master’s Program.

Marquez has been busy at the DOC but enjoys the intense activity and camaraderie. On any given day, she is helping to ensure adequate staffing levels and deploying the right staff to the DOC and the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). As liaison between facilities managers and the DOC, she takes pride in helping ensure safe worksites for all SFPUC staff and contractors through onsite mandatory health screening.

Marquez acknowledges she was able to quickly adjust her duties to incorporate the time spent in the DOC, but knows it isn’t that easy for everyone. The pandemic response has required much different types of DSW assignments than an earthquake or major fire. While reporting for duty in person has been challenging, even remote assignments can be difficult or infeasible for those taking care of children or living with high-risk family members. Seeing newly assigned DSWs jump into their tasks, Marquez isn’t surprised to hear the SFPUC has been one of the top City agencies contributing and responding to DSW requests.

“I’m grateful that I can do my part to help our City, and that so many others are helping out,” Marquez remarks when asked about her experience. “Some of us are fortunate enough to work from home, but many don’t have that luxury.” Marquez mentions that her dad is a contractor working at the Oceanside Treatment Plant, “I really appreciate everyone reporting to work at our facilities and ensuring a safe work environment”. Her final thoughts are a reflection her actions, “we’re all learning as we go. Contribute in any way you can.”

Stephanie Marquez is responsible for administering security systems, access control and surveillance at the SFPUC’s facilities,