Those who have not gotten tested for COVID-19 may not know what all might happen if they were to test positive.
Gonzales County Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Harless said that if someone is feeling ill enough to seek medical advice from their doctor, and they decide to get tested, the process stops completely if a negative result is returned.
However, in the case of a positive test for coronavirus, Harless said the county will get involved.
“If you test positive, then they inform you that you tested positive and they say, ‘please quarantine yourself for 14 days expect a phone call from the state,” Harless said. “After the patient is notified, it’s sent to the Department of State Health Services, which is state medical people. Because Gonzalez county does not have a health department per se, then our health issues are defaulted to the state in San Antonio where they have a regional office.”
The county is then provided with the person’s address, case number and status through encrypted means. The state will also conduct contact tracing investigations, to see who an infected individual may have come in contact with since their own acquisition of the virus.
“The only reason they gave me the address was, at the beginning, we were letting the dispatch folks know so that first responders, if they were to be dispatched to that address, would be conscious of that be able to suit up with PPE,” Harless said. “Now that the virus has become so widespread, we don't do that anymore. Because we tell everybody, you need to assume that it's at that location when you go.”
Harless said that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order requiring the wearing of masks was another factor in discontinuing the practice of providing addresses to dispatchers. He is notified of new cases in the county multiple times a day.
“I get notifications twice a day, six days a week,” Harless said. “In the morning, I get a notification of some information. And then in the afternoon, by four o'clock, I get a notification. Those are all encrypted, and we keep those under lock and key. So that's kind of how the process works.”
With an increase in available tests and diversity of testing methods, Harless said getting tested is much simpler and more easily accessible than it was several months ago.
“I guess it's fluid, because the technology and the research is still evolving,” Harless said. “So we go from one day for one week, and then then we may do something different than next week. It's a constant battle.”
Being the Emergency Management Coordinator appointed by Gonzlaes County Judge Patrick C. Davis, Harless said all data he receives regarding coronavirus testing in the county is sent to Judge Davis. Judge Davis did not respond to request for comment about how data is handled before the time of publication.
In addition to handling the COVID-19 pandemic, Gonzales County Emergency Management is responsible for dealing with fires, floods and many other issues relating to public health.
“I wear many, many hats,” Harless said.