AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR / KCIT) — Amarillo is one of only a handful of Texas cities that releases a COVID-19 report card, every day. All of the data on it, new cases, deaths, recoveries, and more, collected and compiled by the around 90 employees, a mix of part-time and permanent staff at the Amarillo Public Health Department.
Amarillo Public Health Director Casie Stoughton likens it to an iceberg underwater, “It takes a number of team members, it takes a number of processes, so much data entry and, and tabulation and calculation. If it were as simple as like just counting the number of cases, it would be very simple, but it’s it really is an iceberg under the water.”
Since the virus reached the High Plains in March, many of their normal programs have been halted.
“We’ve had to put many of those services on hold. Because this pandemic just had to take priority.” Stoughton said. “We also have a number of services, kind of maternal-child health services, and so we are able to offer car seats and cribs to families. And so those services are still continuing.
Staff say they have had to roll with the punches.
STD Testing nurse, Terri Bradford, is now the main point of contact for COVID-19 testing in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.
“This, and STDs in some ways are very, very similar,” Bradford said. “You have to protect yourself, you have to protect Others.”
One of the services that public health is providing is checking in on covid patients who are elderly, live alone, or who have special needs.
Monitoring lead Alice Mayberry says it can take an emotional toll.
“You get attached to them, they get attached to you,” Mayberry said. “And you just want to monitor them, because sometimes things can turn really from one day to the next.
The staff’s heart for helping grew other programs, as well.
“I think one of the things that is the most critical is the heart of our staff. And so we realized early on, that our patients had needs greater than just contact tracing. And so we developed a social services team,” Stoughton said.
That team provides groceries and other necessities when there is a need.
Prevention Program Coordinator Marcus Nerios said he is proud of the work he has been able to do, this year.
“I’m glad that we’ve been able to help individuals through the hard times of the various programs we have here at public health,” Nerios said.
Testing continues at the APHD free drive-thru testing site. Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program Manager Mark Price has been there since the beginning and watched the process become more streamlined.
“From start to finish getting through here. It takes about four minutes to get a test. And the results through PPL right now are taking the longest that we’ve heard recently is 48 hours they are really quick,” Price said.
It’s work some have been critical of: Stoughton said she fields calls and gets messages every day from people who are upset.
“I think what’s important is that like, these are like, our city staff and our Public Health Staff and our Environmental Health Staff, we’re your neighbors, and we’re truly doing all that we can to make this situation better,” Stoughton said.
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