No one imagined in 1943 when the Williamson County Health Department was established that it later would become a health district, and one day be at the forefront of preserving our public health against a worldwide pandemic.
In 1989, under the Texas Local Public Health Reorganization Act, the county and the cities of Round Rock, Cedar Park, Georgetown and Taylor established the Williamson County and Cities Health District through a cooperative agreement.
The agreement was revised and re-adopted in 1992 and again in 2007, when Liberty Hill and Hutto joined WCCHD. In 2013, Leander enlisted. Any incorporated city in the county with a population over 15,000 may apply to join the health district.
The Williamson County Board of Health, as the administrative authority for the health district, sets policies to promote and preserve public health and safety. The Williamson County Commissioners Court appoints two directors, while each participating city appoints one board member.
WCCHD Executive Director Derrick Neal said the health district allows each participating city to customize its own services to better meet the needs of its residents, especially with COVID-19’s challenges.
Of WCCHD’s 92 full-time employees and eight contractors, roughly 70 perform COVID-related work. WCCHD’s 58 investigators include 41 epidemiologists, nurses, surge volunteers and staff, six contact tracers and 11 call center volunteers.
There are three types of investigations. An epidemiological investigation occurs when individual cases of possible COVID illness or exposure are reported to the health district. A WCCHD staff member then calls those individuals and interviews them about their symptoms, where they’ve been and their close contacts over a specific time.
Contact tracing team members call the person’s contacts identified during the epi investigation informing them they probably were exposed to a COVID-19 case and should stay home for 14 days.
WCCHD recently transitioned to state contact tracing, which will provide additional resources with the tremendous growth in new cases.
For clusters—sites with two or more positive cases—public health staff conduct on-site assessments, offer education, consulting and other services. One or more cases at a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home, is considered a cluster. Wilco EMS and firefighters investigate these clusters and establish safety controls through isolation and testing everyone.
WCCHD also has run a public testing drive-through at a Georgetown middle school that offered at least 60 tests every weekday from April 30 until it closes July 17. Seven WCCHD staff, seven volunteers, five Georgetown Fire Department firefighters and one Weir firefighter tested people through their car windows as they drove up.