Public health students at the University of North Texas Health Science Center are preparing to help fight COVID-19 by tracing contacts of infected individuals with Tarrant County Public Health. They will answer phones and aid investigators who perform contact tracing, the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with an infected person and informing them to take precautions.
As of April 17th, there are 1,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County. Tarrant County Public Health’s Emergency Preparedness staff are working together with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Texas Department of State Health Services to respond to the virus. So far, around 60 UNTHSC students have trained to support Tarrant County Public Health staff, a role that will give them valuable real-world experience through their duties of answering questions on the county hotline and collecting information about the disease’s spread.
“These young people are playing an important role in helping to flatten the COVID-19 curve,” said Russ Jones, TCPH Chief Epidemiologist via release. “The students will get a crash course in how to gather information about who may have been exposed to COVID-19, when and where it may have occurred and how to identify contacts who may need to self-isolate to keep the virus from spreading.”
Last month, the University of North Texas HSC opened a COVID-19 test site in collaboration with the Moncrief Cancer Institute for first responders who may have been exposed to the virus. The site has since expanded and now serves health professionals, sanitation workers, and transit employees. In addition, HSC volunteers have helped staff a round-the-clock information phone line to provide information to the public.
“This collaboration with Tarrant County Public Health is another great opportunity for HSC to help protect the community we serve,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, HSC School of Public Health Dean via release. “It also provides invaluable experience in the middle of a pandemic that will prepare our Public Health students to lead during future public health crises.”