In their day jobs, Tracy, Jo and Claire are part of the Museums Team covering management of museums, collections and front of house.
In March, the Scottish Government advised those at the highest clinical risk to avoid all social contact for 12 weeks. There are more than 3,000 individuals who have been advised to shield in East Lothian.
Colleagues from across the council have joined forces to form our shielding response team, which has been in direct contact with almost everyone on the shielded list in East Lothian, to ensure they are aware of the support available.
“At the beginning, we were finding households in crisis situations, households who were going to run out of food," explains Jo, who along with Tracy is normally based in Dunbar looking after John Muir’s Birthplace and Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery.
"It is quite different now though, we can see that all the systems and supports that the local authority and government are putting in are working. We are not seeing people as desperate as they were at the beginning of the pandemic.”
Jo has made as many 28 calls in a day, taking her over six hours. She has juggled this work whilst caring for a six-year-old child and supporting her husband who is a keyworker for the NHS working 12-hour shifts.
She adds: “People are dealing with really complex situations, where they themselves might be disabled or have significant health concerns, but they are also caring for their children or other members of the household with reduced access to their usual support systems. The resilience we have seen is incredible.”
Tracy has around 20 phone calls to make each week. “Most people I’ve spoken to are doing quite well,” she says. “They can get their prescription and their food. It is the loneliness that people are finding difficult. We all need someone to talk to. I tend to stay on the phone a little longer with those people but there is a long list of great charities and support networks we can tell people about. People are lovely and really grateful for the phone call."
Tracy’s regular role with the council is public facing, with lots of interaction with the public and that is what she has missed most about lockdown.
Tracy, Jo and Claire feel that taking part in the shielding exercise has been incredibly positive and has reinforced what lovely communities East Lothian has.
Jo, whose regular role also involves coordinating promotion of museums in the county, explains: “When we phone people we often hear stories about the nice neighbour, or the friendly postman and the local businesses who have gone out of their way to support their community.” Tracy adds: “We are so incredibly lucky with where we live.”
While Tracy, Jo and Claire carry out shielding calls to the public they are also thinking about what will happen when they go back to work and what the ‘new normal’ will be.
As a Collections Officer, Claire, who is normally based at Library and Museums HQ in Haddington, explains: “After lockdown we will start collecting objects and artefacts to add to our contemporary collection that represent East Lothian’s response to COVID-19. Items that tell the specific story of how East Lothian experienced the pandemic.
“We want to make sure we are still providing a service. We are starting to think how we can do things a little bit differently to ensure we are continuing to support local schools and communities,” explains Tracy.
For further information on shielding, and how to get in touch if you need support, visit our webpage.