Collin County to transition coronavirus case management to state health department

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The Texas Department of State Health Services will perform all COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing for Collin County following a vote by Collin County Commissioners Court on May 29.

The county will have access to state data and reports, but how much data will be shared and how it will be shared is still unknown, according to a news release.

Collin County chose to delay the transition earlier in the week and was provided varying options for future case management, including continued use of Collin County Health Care Services, a combination of local and state efforts or the transfer of full control to the state.

County public health director Candy Blair said she endorsed the decision to hand over control to the state prior to the commissioner's vote, largely because sharing data with the state allows for more information and study of the disease. County technology staff will also not be able to dedicate their full attention to the cases once the county is fully reopen, she said.

Internal health care staff and roughly 50 other county employees in other departments have assisted in managing cases, according to Bill Bilyeu, county administrator. As the county continues to reopen, staff outside of health care will need to return to their regular positions.

Funding has been provided to the county by the CARES Act that can be used to pay for additional staffing. The money must be used or returned by Dec. 31. Federal funding will end at that time, but counties would not be required to shift to state management.

That funding can go toward other efforts now that the county has opted to hand off management to the state.

"I'd rather use the dollars locally into other business grants or constituent services rather than duplicate what the state's already doing," Commissioner Darrell Hale said.

Commissioner Cheryl Williams said she was hesitant because of the newness of the state's tracking system. Collin County built its own system independent from the state, and there is the possibility of not being able to get all the data the county uses from the state because of the newness of its system, she said.

"I'm not sure I want to be one of the first large counties to jump into [option] three," Williams said.

A motion to go with a combined effort between the state and county failed in a 2-3 vote. Commissioners then voted 3-2 to transition management of all case investigation and contact tracing activities to the state.

Collin County health officials will still handle medical-related health questions from its residents, according to Bilyeu. The county will continue to monitor the health status of current cases and report on them until they are resolved, Hill said in a May 30 update. New Collin County case details will be reported through the state's online dashboard.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect information from a May 30 announcement from Judge Chris Hill.
By Liesbeth Powers
Liesbeth graduated from Baylor University with a degree in new media journalism in December 2018. She gained her newspaper experience as a staff writer and multimedia editor at her campus paper, The Baylor Lariat. Liesbeth joined the Community Impact team in August 2019, where she reports on all things Plano and Richardson, including Plano City Council and Dallas Area Rapid Transit.


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