EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The City of El Paso and UTEP will now work together to get more people tested locally. The University agreed to provide the personnel to get it done.
City council unanimously voted for this effort which means the community will have more testing opportunities for COVID-19 because more personnel will be made available to do so.
“People can do 12 hour days, 7 days a week for so long but then they need rest. They need to have fresh legs in the game so UTEP is bringing that,” Dr. Heather Wilson, President of UTEP said.
The City’s Department of Public Health and UTEP staff from its Clinical Laboratory Science program will work together to expand the current workforce and be able to increase testing for COVID-19.
“We’ve already expanded to 7 days a week, multiple tests per day. This will give us the backfill we need with personnel, to continue that operation running the long haul,” Mario D’Agostino, Chief of the El Paso Fire Department said in a virtual council meeting.
Qualified UTEP faculty will receive orientation and training to work at city facilities or the Department of Health laboratory.
The City said it will be providing them with the necessary equipment needed for the job, and UTEP will provide each of them with a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) for their safety.
“Talented people who can backup those who are already working there,” Dr. Wilson told KTSM, “This is not something you learn over night, we teach it in a four year degree, and it needs to be done accurately and safely. Our faculty teaches that to others so we’re quite capable of helping them keep the lab open longer hours so that they can be testing more.”
This agreement between the City and the University is set to last for a period up to 12 months. UTEP President Dr. Wilson said that UTEP is willing to help those who are working endlessly on the frontline to combat the virus.
“UTEP has served this community for over 100 years, someone told me when I arrived here that 80% of teachers in the west Texas were educated at UTEP and probably half the nurses in this region were educated at UTEP. The Clinical Laboratory of Sciences is the same way. These are our alumni who are running this lab, so we’re happy to help out when we’re needed,” Dr. Wilson shared.
The City of El Paso will reimburse UTEP up to $200,000 for services and equipment.