HSC students join Tarrant County Public Health to fight COVID-19
By Alex Branch
Dozens of HSC Fort Worth Public Health students will join the fight against COVID-19 at Tarrant County Public Health by helping gather information about people who may have been exposed to the virus.
The students will answer phone lines and help support investigators in the field who perform contact tracing and other duties. Contact tracing is the process of identifying and informing people who have come into contact with an infected person so they can take precautions.
Thirty University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth students trained last week and another 30 are scheduled to train this week. As of April 12, there were 806 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County.
“Each new confirmed case of COVID-19 is another case that Tarrant County’s dedicated public health professionals must investigate to determine who had close contact with the infected person and provide critical guidance to those individuals,” HSC President Michael R. Williams said. “Our public health students are prepared and eager to support these professionals perform this enormous task.”
Tarrant County Public Health’s Emergency Preparedness staff work closely with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas Department of State Health Services to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. HSC students will get a real-world experience through gathering information and answering questions on the county information hotline.
“These young people are playing an important role in helping to flatten the COVID-19 curve,” said TCPH Chief Epidemiologist Russ Jones. “The students will get a crash course on 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.”
In March, HSC collaborated with the Moncrief Cancer Institute to open a COVID-19 test site for first responders. The site has expanded to include health professionals, transit employees and sanitation workers. HSC student and employee volunteers also have helped staff a 24/7 phone information line to help 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. “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.”