Fort Bend County officials have joined with Rice University to help those affected by COVID-19 receive streamlined care and services.
The COVID-19 Survey, announced last week by Fort Bend County Judge KP George, is a partnership between the county, Rice’s Kinder Institute and former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. The survey is a community registry designed to track the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 with a focus on the Houston region, providing government officials with real-time information on the virus’ spread along with who is being affected and how.
As of Tuesday morning county officials had reported 1,916 cases of COVID-19 among residents. The upper-respiratory disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus has also caused 445deaths, according to the county.
“It’s uncharted territory,” said Emmett, who is now a professor at Rice. “We’ve always learned from past events, so it’s important now to learn from COVID – not only to get through it, but we know something like this is likely to come again later on.”
Kinder Institute Director Bill Fulton said the university initially developed the framework of the survey following Hurricane Harvey in 2017 to give assistance to Harris County’s most vulnerable residents. When COVID-19 came along, he said, the survey was expanded to include it. The survey process already has begun in Harris County.
“One of the things we’re able to do with this is help our health officials respond more quickly in real time to what’s going on. This helps people get access to services more easily,” Fulton said. “We will be able to merge this with other data, particularly identifying geographical trends and trends among certain populations.”
As of May 20, about 2,100 Texans had filled out the online survey. Fort Bend residents will answer questions about how the pandemic has affected them financially, economically and health-wise.
“It’s important for us to be able to use good – and recent – data so we can begin to plan, identify gaps in services and know how the community can be more informed in various areas,” said Anna Gonzalez, Fort Bend County’s director of social services.
According to current survey results, Fulton said about 40 percent of people are working from home and have experienced some sort of downward trend in their income. Meanwhile, he said 20 percent of respondents are experiencing mental health issues related to the pandemic. Early responses have also seen 27 percent have some symptom related to COVID-19 – but only 3 percent of them have been tested for the disease, highlighting the need for more testing, according to officials.
The county has opened free testing sites in all four precincts. OakBend Medical Center also has a private testing facility.
“From Day 1 in Fort Bend County, we knew testing had to be a priority,” George said. “… As I have always said, data will drive our decision making and your feedback is valuable in this process.”
Fulton said more residents are filling out the survey each day, and follow-up surveys will be conducted every two weeks.
The registry can be found at kinder.rice.edu/covid-19-registry.
“It is important for residents to give as much information as possible to local officials so they can continue to provide services and prepare for future pandemics,” Emmett said. “The registry is your opportunity to contribute to a better recovery and a safer future.”