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Brazos Co. Health partners with Workforce Solutions, TAMU to "box in" COVID-19 cases

The health district worked with Texas A&M to form the idea for the Brazos Valley COVID Investigation Operations Center and got funding from Workforce Solutions.

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — With COVID-19 positive cases in the Brazos Valley reaching record highs, the Brazos County Health District has formed a task force to "box in" the positive cases and those who've had contact with them.

I spoke to a couple people in charge of making the Brazos Valley COVID Investigation Operations Center happen.

“I wanna make sure that we box in the disease. If it’s out in the community, we identify those. We isolate those and we quarantine them,” said Santos Navarrette, the Director of the Brazos County Health District.

There’s been a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Brazos County, but the partnership to hire a contact tracing task force has been in the works for a while.

Navarrette said, “The health district started working with Brazos County workforce solutions about two months ago. We didn’t have enough staff to do the contact tracing piece of our case investigation.”

As cases started to rise, the health district worked with Texas A&M to form the idea for the Brazos Valley COVID Investigation Operations Center, but they needed funding.

Tom Wilkinson, the Executive Director for Brazos Valley Workforce solutions said, “The governor made contract tracing a priority. Workforce commission in Austin created a grant to each one of the workforce boards. I have funds available for up to $200,000.”

Now, with the partnership between A&M, the Brazos County Health District and Brazos County workforce, the investigations operations center is hiring up to four epidemiologists, 10 investigators and 40 contact tracers.

Navarrette said the contract tracers will be paid $15 an hour and the investigators will be paid $18 an hour. 

“Our epidemiologist gets cases from the hospitals through the lab and he vets those out and if they’re positive, he provides them to the investigator,” he said.

The investigators would then fill out forms with information like the case’s demographic and lab testing information. 

“Then that’s where the contract tracers come into play. We give them a list of those names that were provided to us. Then we call them up to get information on if they’ve got any symptoms,where they’ve been, have they been in close contact,” Navarette said.

He also added “close contact” means if anyone was with the person who tested positive in a room without a mask, less than six feet away from each other for at least 15 minutes. 

“People ask when are we gonna get our second wave, well we never left the first. This is an important work for us. Personally I am optimistic that we’ll get a hold of this and I think that people will take responsibility to the community as a whole.”

The task force is looking to hire as soon as possible and you can apply here and put "Brazos County" in the Keyword search space.