HUNTINGTON — The Cabell-Huntington Health Department presented three of its community partners with $1.2 million on Tuesday to reimburse them for their COVID-19 testing efforts.

Tuesday morning, the health department presented COVID-19 testing partners Marshall University, Marshall Health and Mountain Health Network with a check for the funds, which were secured through the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Emergency response, it’s all local,” said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, chief executive officer and health officer for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, who presented the check alongside Tim Hazelett, chief operating office for the health department. “It starts local and it ends local and that all happens before we get any help and before anything else occurs.”

Kilkenny said the check presentation event celebrated a symbol of the help that is coming at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can say that, in Cabell County, if you say ‘all hands on deck,’ you had better have a truckload of work gloves, because they’re all gonna show up,” Kilkenny said. “But that all has a cost and that cost was put up front by the agencies that are represented here as a portion of the reimbursement that’s coming to this community for what has already been spent in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Kevin Yingling, chief executive officer of Mountain Health Network and president of Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center, reflected on the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the individuals “who were instrumental” in that time and the health department’s response. He said he never before had seen public health be the leader of unifying a medical school, a health care system and a Division I university into one effort.

“The most important letters in our name, West Virginia, are the first two, we,” Marshall President Brad D. Smith said. “And the first important word in the rally cry ‘We Are Marshall’ is the first word, ‘we.’ And I think that this reaction, that we pull together to fight a pandemic, it’s emblematic of everything we are in our community.”

Beth Hammers, chief executive officer of Marshall Health and chief administrative officer of Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine described community partnerships as “invaluable.”

“It was about this time last year, when we closed our community testing tents, about two years and 70,000 COVID tests later, right,” Hammers said. “That’s a lot. And that was for one site only, right. I would like to recognize and thank the faculty, the staff, medical students and resident physicians who worked tirelessly with our friends at Mountain Health Network. Together, they worked the tents through extreme weather conditions, and they banded together to distribute and administer vaccinations.”

Kilkenny said, aside from the FEMA reimbursement money, a lot of COVID-19 testing was reimbursed in other ways, such as the CARES Act and the American Recovery Act, but the cost of the response exceeded that.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., all who had representatives at the event on Tuesday, played a role in the approval and appropriation of the reimbursement money received from FEMA, Kilkenny said.

“This is a small percentage of the amount of money that we are expecting to bring back into Cabell County in order to make whole the expenditures of all of our partner agencies that put that effort up front, and we’re so glad to have the support from Congress to pay that back,” Kilkenny said.

Other community partners who aided in COVID-19 pandemic response include Valley Health, the Cabell County Board of Education, Cabell County Emergency Medical Services and the Wayne County Health Department, Kilkenny said.

Cabell County lost more than 400 people to COVID-19 over the last three years, said Hazelett, who led a moment of silence in their memory during the event Tuesday.