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Health department awaiting word on COVID-19 tracing grant

Staff at the Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Department screen an individual for COVID-19 Tuesday morning outside the office in Princeton. The health department is awaiting to hear back about a COVID-19 tracing grant it applied for to help stop the spread of the virus.
Staff at the Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Department screen an individual for COVID-19 Tuesday morning outside the office in Princeton. The health department is awaiting to hear back about a COVID-19 tracing grant it applied for to help stop the spread of the virus.

The Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Departments is working to get an $817,000 state grant that will be used to conduct COVID-19 tracing. 

The grant would be used to hire part-time tracers who would be responsible in the investigation of tracing positive cases back to its origin. That information would then be put into a state system.

Hector Gomez, director of the health departments, said the role of a tracer would involve talking with different people. 

“Once you have a positive, you have 24 hours to get that person and start the process right away to see what locations they were at and who they were with and try to contact as many people as quickly as possible so you can to try to stop the spread,” he said.

Gomez said in some cases people may not want to give information or may not be truthful, for whatever reason. 

“It’s kind of hard to force someone to talk,” he said. 

Right now, the Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Departments is waiting on approval for the grant. The requirements of the grant process were changed after their application was submitted. 

“They changed what the requirements were a little bit. We might get it back and (have to) make changes,” Gomez said. “(The applications) were due back June 5 at the time and then they extended to the ninth of June. By then, we had already submitted ours.”

Larger health departments are expected to receive more funding compared to smaller health departments, due to population. 

If there’s anyone who understands the importance of contact-tracing to combat the spread of COVID-19, it’s Gomez.

He contracted the virus in early April and missed three weeks of work, but is now fully recovered. He is unsure where he contracted the virus.

“I think I’m OK. I tell people, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me 10 years from now,” he said. “Sometimes the effects of the virus don’t show themselves until years later. I didn’t have to be on a respirator. I didn’t have to be hospitalized. Nothing. It was in the lungs, (I) had a cough, fever and that was pretty much it.”

Gomez said he was treated with prescription medicines and a lot of liquids. He said he had no appetite, because “you have no taste for food.”

He admitted it was ironic that he contracted the virus.

“If anybody could get it, it was me,” he said.

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