Jefferson County coronavirus hotline fields 60 calls in first hours Friday morning

Published 2:53 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

A hotline for people to be screened for COVID-19, or coronavirus, took approximately 60 calls in a 2 1/2-hour timeframe Friday morning when the call center was opened, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said.

A large number of those callers — about two-thirds — did not have fever, which is one of the symptoms of the virus.

Jefferson County, so far, has one confirmed case of coronavirus from a person in Beaumont. Other than that, there are no confirmed cases in local hospitals, though there are suspected cases.

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How the call center works

Judith Smith, director of health services at the Port Arthur Health Department, said the call center is located in Beaumont and is manned by school nurses who volunteered their time and other nurses from the county and Port Arthur.

When people call the hotline, 409-550-2536, they are connected with someone in their county — Jefferson, Orange, Hardin or Jasper. These people will screen the caller to see if they fit the criteria for testing. If they don’t fit the criteria, they are asked to continue to monitor their condition, and if they don’t get better to call their private provider.

Presently it is operational from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Please remember, the symptoms of COVID-19 are Fever; Dry cough and Shortness of breath.

If the person meets the criteria, then a shift leader will confirm if the person qualifies for triage or one of the testing sites.

As of Friday there were no confirmed cases in Port Arthur, Smith said.

But, she added, don’t call 911 unless you have a true emergency and do not just show up at the hospital. If you are having symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath — then call the hotline. Some people may be symptomatic but not in distress; these are the who need to call the hotline, Smith said.

If a person meets all of the criteria for testing, the nurse will call and notify the testing site, and a time will be given to the patient to go for testing. Smith said the process may change, but this is the standard as of Friday.

The PAHD does not have testing kits at this time but requests have been made to obtain some.

Branick said beginning Monday there will be county drive-through facilities for testing but did not disclose the location as the person must be screened first and then given a number and location. Test kits will then be shipped overnight to New Jersey, he said.

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