Douglas County is moving forward with two new measures intended to help the community fend off new COVID-19 cases. These new steps, approved at a July 28 meeting of the county commissioners, include …
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Douglas County is moving forward with two new measures intended to help the community fend off new COVID-19 cases.
These new steps, approved at a July 28 meeting of the county commissioners, include sending additional funding to Tri-County Health Department and signing a contract with STRIDE Community Health to provide mobile COVID-19 tests this fall. Both measures will be fully funded through the federal CARES Act.
The $1.9 million going to Tri-County will help the health department ramp up testing, hire more contact tracers and expand their data analysis.
“We really appreciate the partnership for this contract ... to be able to increase our workforce to be able to do contact tracing,” said Jennifer Ludwig, deputy director of Tri-County. “It is one of our core functions.”
When the contract was approved, Tri-County had 111 contact tracers, Ludwig said. They planned to hire an additional 100 people in the coming weeks.
“We will continue to recruit and onboard people until we are able to keep up with the cases,” she said in the meeting. “As you are aware, we’ve had a big surge in cases, and this is across our jurisdiction, … our need for doing case investigation has really increased.”
As contact tracing efforts expand in the county, more residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus are expected to get calls from Tri-County with questions. They will ask for the person’s name and address as well as information about whether they recently traveled, who they have been in close contact with and what types of events they’ve attended, Ludwig said.
“If I go to the grocery store and I end up as a positive case, my contact tracer is not going to put out an announcement and call everyone at the grocery store that day,” she said. “We’re looking for that close contact.”
Close contact has occurred when someone spends greater than 15 minutes at less than 6 feet of distance from another person, she said.
All information gathered in these calls will be protected under HIPAA.
Adams and Arapahoe counties signed similar agreements, each donating more funds than Douglas County, based on their populations. In total, the health department will receive about $8.5 million from the three counties.
“I think the public thinks that we are like gladiators against each other,” Commissioner Lora Thomas said to Ludwig in the meeting. “And that’s just not really the case. We are working closely with our health department.”
The Douglas County commissioners recently voted to withdraw from the health department after Tri-County’s board of directors voted to require residents in their three-county jurisdiction to wear face masks in public places. Douglas County will remain a part of the health department until at least July 11, 2021.
“We highly appreciate the hard work of public health professionals (and) epidemiologists,” Commissioner Abe Laydon said. “Nobody signs up to address a global endemic on a local level but you have done that very well and have coordinated with us since day one.”
The $1.1 million contract with STRIDE Community Health Center, also unanimously approved in the meeting, will provide mobile testing, including traditional, antibody and rapid testing to county residents. Through the agreement, STRIDE will provide testing from Sept. 1 through Dec. 20.
“I think this shows the commitment that we in Douglas County are putting forth to contain the COVID epidemic,” Commissioner Roger Partridge said. “We really take this seriously.”
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