HSC, Tarrant County Public Health work together to increase COVID-19 contact tracing

By Diane Smith-Pinckney

HSC Student

Students from the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) will help Tarrant County Public Health perform COVID-19 contact tracing under a $1.9 million contract approved by Tarrant County Commissioners.  

The agreement will pay for the students’ time, program management, human resource functions, a virtual call center and facilities to support contact tracing. It is the latest collaboration between HSC and Tarrant County in response to the pandemic.  

“HSC has the expertise and resources to be of valuable service to our community during this time of crisis,” HSC President Dr. Michael Williams said. It is a natural partnership between the future health providers we train at HSC and Tarrant County Public Health professionals to work together to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.” 

HSC will provide 90 part-time employees from five HSC schools – Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, School of Public Health, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Health Professions and College of Pharmacy — to participate in the program, the equivalency of 45 full-time employees.   

The project is funded by the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by federal lawmakers earlier this year. The project was approved by the Tarrant County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. The CARES dollars were granted to the county. 

“Contact tracing is a key component to reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said. “We are pleased to partner again with HSC to help stay on top of this virus while also providing valuable training to HSC students.” 

Noah Drew, HSC Senior Director of External Relations, said that Tarrant County Public Health will train HSC students who will work remotely to conduct tracing and contact work. HSC will facilitate employee management and human resource functions.  

TCPH will reimburse HSC for the program expenses. 

The contact tracing work is expected to begin Sept. 1, Drew said. Students will train and participate in an orientation before they begin contact tracing. Students will work through Dec. 30, when the contract ends. 

The partnership will help students obtain hands-on training in a public health emergency. The jobs are remote and the hours are flexible, allowing students to balance their tracing duties with their academic work and training.    

“Students will be better prepared to enter their chosen fields of study, having participated in the relief effort during a global pandemic,” Drew said. 

The goal of contact tracing is to stop the spread of COVID-19. HSC worked with the county earlier this year to provide contact tracing and COVID-19 testing. These collaborations were among several ways HSC assisted with local response to the pandemic. 

Drew said that when people are notified that they may have been exposed to the virus through contact tracing, they can take steps to self-isolate, monitor their health and inform close contacts about potential risks. 

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