When It Comes to COVID Response, Steal a Page from Oklahoma City Risk Manager Nick Kelly’s Book

Quick, focused action by this public sector risk manager no doubt saved lives for the City of Oklahoma City.
By: | September 2, 2021

As COVID-19 took hold, Nick Kelly took action.

The risk manager for the City of Oklahoma City (COKC) aimed to make sure its 5,000 employees stayed safe and healthy. His goal was simple: Avoid mass outbreaks and keep services running smoothly.

In the early days of the pandemic, he focused on giving workers up-to-date COVID-19 information and access to testing. Later, he helped develop a vaccine program in coordination with the police and fire departments.

The City first created a Medical Monitoring Unit in coordination with Oklahoma City Emergency Management (OEM), a COKC fire paramedic and a police sergeant.

Kelly quickly realized they needed external support to field the influx of phone calls, schedule testing, and handle incident intake. So he contracted CorVel Corporation, which used registered nurses for testing, followed CDC guidance on exposure and reported results for contact tracing.

Kelly also assembled a weekly COVID Working Group Task Force to ensure nothing was being missed or overlooked.

He and his team implemented temperature monitoring, installed plexiglass barriers at workspaces, filtered air with bipolar ionization units, and secured plenty of personal protective equipment. They even extended access to testing and vaccinations to household family members of city employees and contract workers.

Kelly estimates the city had as many as 140 workers positive at the same time. From December 2020 to June 2021, the City had a total of 3,238 COVID-19 incidents. The city cited 1,808 incidents during which a rapid test was performed.

When vaccines became available, COKC OEM set up 33 vaccination pods, including 9,233 vaccinations administered to employees, contractors or household family members.

Nearly 60% of the City workforce has now been vaccinated.

“The City did a great job reacting to this crisis. There is no rest for public safety, fixing streets or keeping the water running — and we still got everything done,” said Kelly.

“The city responded as well as any organization and took every step to keep employees safe.”

In the immediate future, Kelly and his team are working on a plan to get more city workers vaccinated by visiting worksites and starting an information campaign on the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Joyce Lumpkin, senior vice president at CorVel, said Kelly’s ability to listen and entertain fresh ideas sets him apart as a strong leader: “No ideas were off the table, no amount of expense was spared to keep the City employees safe. Nick realized that the City had the ability to extend testing and vaccinations to spouses, children and all household members which in turn protected their workforce and our community population.”

When asked about his success, Kelly put the praise not on himself but on his team.

“I couldn’t have done this without some really good people behind me. CorVel was a great partner in this. My staff has done a great job. I had a lot of help from a lot of people. Everyone pulled together to make people as safe as possible. It was a great team effort.” &


Every year, Risk & Insurance selects deserving candidates to become Risk All Stars. These are risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

See all the 2021 Risk All Star Winners here.

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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