How Chandini Gaur Began Her First Year at the SFPUC Supporting COVID Response

Time during the COVID-19 pandemic seems to crawl and sprint simultaneously. Last week feels like last year, while the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 seems like it was yesterday.

Now imagine serving as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) in a stressful environment for seven months during the pandemic; that is a very long time. Yet Santa Monica native Chandini Gaur doesn’t have to envision such a scenario. She’s been living it.

The Senior Budget Analyst in the SFPUC Power Enterprise has been serving as a Project Manager for the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Information and Guidance Branch at the COVID Command Center (CCC) since June. She’s traded in her budgets and spreadsheets and instead is communicating complex topics that sometimes come with potential legal ramifications. In her role, she and her team are responsible for working with subject-matter experts like doctors and environmental health employees to issue guidance for the public on otherwise normal activities during the pandemic. “It’s so different from my SFPUC responsibilities!” she says.

While the work has been tough at times as her days are often filled with numerous meetings and never-ending emails, Gaur has learned a lot. “I am able to communicate better than before I served at the CCC. I can quickly identify the stakeholders when I receive a request and know how to best connect with those audiences.”

Despite not having a communications or medical background, she nevertheless feels like she belongs at the CCC and has a seat at the table. “Something that’s surprised me is how employees without a medical background like me have just as much of a purpose [in the COVID-19 response] as doctors or nurses.”

Through this experience, Gaur has realized just how much it takes to run an emergency operation in San Francisco. While she notes there have been hiccups along the way, she applauds her fellow colleagues and their tireless commitment to the community. “San Francisco and in particular the DSWs have been working around the clock to make sure its residents stay as safe as possible.” Gaur is certainly one of them.