A plan to increase efforts to determine who could have been in contact with the coronavirus could involve temporary city employees, pending a vote Monday night.
The City Council will see a bill that would appropriate $193,000 in CARES Act COVID-19 grant money to hire five temporary employees through IMKO temp agency to take over and increase “case and contact calls.”
City of St. Joseph Health Department Director Debra Bradley said her staff has been focused on calling those who test positive for months, leading to other services being minimized or discontinued.
“The provider who does the test often will notify the individual and the Health Department notifies the individual to do the full interview and to collect all the data as far as where the person has been and who they’ve been in contact with.”
She said those calls are called “case calls,” and “contact calls” are when a person who has been in contact with someone who tests positive is notified and briefed. She said the department has been doing both.
During a City Council work session in late May, some council members felt that more could be done to increase contact tracing in the city, in order to know who could have contracted the coronavirus. The city reached out to Buchanan County for funds after the County Commission had been granted over $10 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
The county determined that the contact tracing is an appropriate use of the money, and will reimburse the city if the council chooses to hire the employees, who would work until the end of the year.
Bradley said services at the Health Department are returning, but are not in full effect. The new employees could allow back-to-school immunizations to be done more efficiently.
“It’s still very limited, but once we have people who can take over the case calls and the contact calls, then, particularly the nurses, will be able to do the immunization clinic.”
Bradley said they are working on a way to get children their required immunizations while social distancing, and more details will be released on that plan soon.
“We’re drafting a plan to be able to provide immunizations on a limited basis because we still want to protect our staff and the people coming in for the immunizations,” She said. “So, it will be on a limited basis the number of people we allow in the clinic.”
Sexually transmitted disease testing has returned to the clinic and requires an appointment, as always.
Health educators are getting back into their normal duties after concentrating on phone calls during the pandemic, and will be able to continue regular duties and services if the temporary employees are hired.
A COVID call center can be contacted to ask questions and receive information about the virus and recommended measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health Department will continue to operate that hotline.
“We have the line live, but we’re kind of morphing into our normal business,” Bradley said.
The number for that call center is 816-271-4613.