HSC volunteers help man Tarrant County Public Health’s information line

By Diane Smith

Covid Tcom Web

Students, faculty and staff from The University North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth are helping answer questions about COVID-19 on Tarrant County Public Health’s 24-hour information line.

The collaboration, which launched on March 19, will allow triple the call capacity of the information line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noah Drew, Director of Community Education at HSC Fort Worth, is coordinating the volunteer effort. Drew said that on the first day of operation the number of missed calls between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. dropped by 83 percent.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to live out our values of serving others first,” Drew said. “We have the ability to make a positive impact at a time like this, and we believe in putting our resources to use to create solutions for a healthier community.”

The Tarrant County COVID-19 hotline is 817-248-6299.

Covid Tcom Web 2Drew said that a total of 168 volunteers are working six-hour shifts to answer questions 24 hours a day. Volunteers work eight at a time so they don’t violate emergency rules that call for gatherings of less than 10 people. They work in separate cubicles.

Tarrant County Public Health provides up-to-date COVID-19 information and a script for volunteers to use.

“We are the only COVID-19 information hotline available as a county resource,” Drew said. “We are providing people with general information – answering questions, referring them to testing sites and identifying needs for follow up with medical professionals.”

Drew said the most frequently asked question is where people can get tested.

“We have a few sites in the county, and more are being added almost daily,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on communities is evolving.  The City of Fort Worth declared a public emergency on March 18 because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Hope Patchen, a student at HSC and volunteer, said taking calls about coronavirus is one way to combat the disease.

“As a medical student in this crucial time, it is hard to know where we fit in to help control and reduce the cases of COVID-19,” she said. “We all desperately want to help and be involved. By taking calls with the COVID-19 hotline, we are able to provide those in our community with appropriate resources and put to ease the growing concerns. At this time, it is the best way for us to serve Tarrant County, and we are just happy to get involved.”

All Tarrant County residents should consider themselves potentially exposed to coronavirus, according to Tarrant County Public Health. Residents have been asked to stay at home as much as possible.

As public health experts, health professionals and community leaders work to address emerging cases, HSC Fort Worth is working with the city and county to keep the public updated about safety measures.

“I am happy to think we’re making a difference,” Drew said. “This has been a big project to undertake, but we have had the full support of HSC leadership. It goes to show what great things we can accomplish when we’re all focused on the same goals.”

Read more about COVID-19:

Managing the Emotional Impact of Isolation in Remote Work
COVID-19: Making the most of hunkering down right now
Student food pantry provides a safety net as COVID-19 pandemic continues
HSC professor among international researchers using stem cells to combat COVID-19 pneumonia
Be a leader, you can stop COVID-19
Should I be concerned about coronavirus? Hear from our experts.
HSC pharmacologist answers questions about potential COVID-19 treatments, vaccines

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