The Grayson County Office of Emergency Management, in conjunction with the Grayson County Health Department released a daily COVID-19 report on Tuesday evening that looked a lot different from the one that the offices have been releasing for the past several months.

This is not the first time the form, and the information contained therein, has changed, and Grayson County OEM Director Sarah Somers said it likely won’t be the last because the only thing that has been constant about COVID-19 pandemic is change.

The most recent changes coincide with the newly opened testing COVID-19 testing center at the Grayson County Health Department. The center is ongoing from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is free to the public.

Those who wish to be tested don’t have to be referred by a doctor and they don’t pay for the oral test. The test results are expected to be back within four days or less.

Somers stressed that while people don’t have to pay for the tests, they will be asked to show proof about financial responsibility for their healthcare costs. For instance, those who private health insurance will be asked to provide their information about that coverage as will those who are covered under programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Those getting the tests will not be asked to pay co-pays or their deductibles.

It is expected that at some point down the line the government is going to ask for those other payment sources to kick in on the costs of the testing, Somers said.

The county only recently received the opportunity to allow the testing to be done here and thought it was a good thing for area residents. While they were looking at the procedures and all that it would require, they continued to look at the way that the Health Department, OEM and others have been working during the pandemic so far.

They knew that there was some duplication of effort in the way information that is being gathered and released between the state and county. The county has decided now is a good time to try to look at where those overlaps are and start pulling back, when appropriate, on the county’s involvement to allow staffers to devote more of their time to other duties, Somers said.

When the pandemic hit, the county mounted an all-hands on deck 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week response with staff from various offices. But, this emergency was unlike what they had experienced before in that it is ongoing. Somers said for months now, those staffers have gone above and beyond trying to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities, where possible, and take on the tasks assigned to them to help with the county’s response to COVID-19.

County leaders saw that it was not possible for that level of response to continue indefinitely.

"When this all started back in March, we thought it would be over in a few months," Somers said. "Now people are not sure when or how it will all end. But everyone knows that those county staffers are still needed at the other jobs they do for the county."

GCOEM hopes the changes will clear up confusion that resulted when the information coming from State Health and the local HD didn’t match.

The Health Department will still be working with local school districts and long term care facilities as they try to work with positive cases of COVID-19 in their facilities, but since those facilities are all required by state law to report information about those cases to the state, the county will no longer be releasing that information to the public, Ortez said.

While the county has tried to be responsive to the comments that people have left on social media sites about the county’s public information releases and what is contained in them, Somers said they plan to continue to try to be mindful of the things that people find useful to know. That means in the coming months, the releases could continue to change as the county tries to balance accommodating people’s desire for the information with the time constraints of doing so.

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