The Smith County Communications Office strives to promote transparency by providing the public with the most accurate, accessible and up-to-date information possible while promoting the county's brand and message of "Striving for Excellence."
Located on the first floor of the Smith County Annex Building
200 E. Ferguson, Suite 100
Tyler, Texas 75702
Email: Casey Murphy
County Aids NET Health in Contact Tracing
On Tuesday, July 28, the Smith County Commissioners Court approved an interlocal agreement with the Northeast Texas Public Health District to provide office space and equipment to be used for expanded COVID-19 contract tracing efforts.
Smith County has supported the contact tracing effort from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, loaning several employees from the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office to help local health authorities identify individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and to notify those individuals of a potential exposure.
When a person has tested positive for COVID-19, the NET Health’s contact tracing team interviews that person about their recent activities and who they have had close contact with during the time frame when they may have transmitted the virus to another. Those exposed individuals, in turn, are contacted to let them know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 so they can take appropriate steps to quarantine, if necessary, and to closely watch for the onset of symptoms. This type of investigation is known as “contact tracing” and is used as a prevention measure against the accelerated spread of a communicable disease such as COVID-19. The faster contact tracing can occur, the better chance health officials have to curb the spread of COVID-19 by any person who may have recently been infected.
Participation by individuals contacted is purely voluntary, though encouraged. Personal medical and identifying information gathered during interviews is kept strictly confidential by NET Health, and not passed on to others who may have been exposed.
According to Russell Hopkins, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for NET Health, because the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, the need for more contact tracers is also increasing. Hopkins said they have volunteers willing to help them, but they have run out of room and equipment for them to work. This interlocal agreement will resolve the space and equipment bottleneck through the end of the calendar year, and allow NET Health to expand its efforts in a secure environment at the Smith County Courthouse Annex.
The need for aid was identified during a recent meeting of the Emergency Operations Center Executive Committee, during which the City of Tyler, Smith County and NET Health officials continue to work together to jointly combat the pandemic.
When NET Health officials said they needed space and equipment, County Judge Nathaniel Moran recommended a room on the fifth floor of the Smith County Annex Building that is currently being used as an exercise space for employees. Smith County will also will provide desks and chairs not currently being used, and will use grant funding to purchase cell phones and laptops for the contact tracers. The Commissioners Court voted unanimously to approve the interlocal agreement, and allow NET Health to use the space and equipment through December 30.