Health commissioner says communication a big key

Health commissioner says communication a big key
Dan Starcher

In the Wayne County Health Department’s after-action report regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Commissioner Nick Cascarelli cited communication as playing a significant role in his department’s handling of the crisis.


When a crisis strikes, the clock starts ticking, and every second counts. In the world of public health, the crucial role of effective communication can be the difference between life and death.

When the whispers of a mysterious viral outbreak emerged in early 2020 escalated into a worldwide public health emergency, Wayne County Health Commissioner Nick Cascarelli knew there would be fear and uncertainty. His unwavering mission, above all, was to protect the public and maintain trust.

Now, a year since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared over, Cascarelli is focusing on the role that crisis communication played in the department’s efforts to keep people safe amid rapidly changing information, mandates, and directives.

“There is always something that could have been done differently,” he said. “There was a lot of misinformation that we had to deal with at the height of the pandemic. Unfortunately, we spent as much time combating the misinformation and disinformation as we did serving the citizens and doing what we needed to stop the spread of the virus.”

In his 24-year public health career, 13 years as a health commissioner, Cascarelli said that he had never before experienced the scale of erroneous information that was circulated during the pandemic.

“It was a (new) virus, and there was a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “We passed along the information we were given.”

When the pandemic became political, Cascarelli said it became more important than ever to maintain the people’s trust through their communication efforts.

“We are here to protect the public’s health; we don’t have a political agenda,” he said. “Whether it’s ensuring restaurants are safe or providing childhood vaccines, it is all about ensuring safety, not politics.”

Authenticity was crucial to their approach. Rather than relying on scripted statements, they opted for a human-centered approach, acknowledging the public’s fears, concerns, and emotions.

“Being honest was very important,” Cascarelli continued. “I was on the radio, on YouTube, and in the newspaper often, and it was crucial to address the pandemic with honesty, empathy, and compassion.”

The Health Department’s crisis communications strategy served as a potent reminder that in times of crisis, it’s about saving lives – and that authenticity is the most effective way to do just that.

“We are that place where you can trust to get factual, reliable information, he said. “More than anything, we want to protect human life.”

The Wayne County Health Department is located at 244 W. South St. in Wooster. For additional information, visit

Dan Starcher is the Public Communications Coordinator for Wayne County.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load