Public Health to hire epidemiologist to assist with COVID-19 response

Grays Harbor County commissioners have approved a Public Health request to hire an epidemiologist to assist with the county’s COVID-19 response. The job expands a previous position in the department’s budget and the need for it will be reviewed in six months.

“Although this position is coming out of the COVID-19 situation it looks like something we are going to have to put in place for the future to make sure we have the capacity to withstand any surge,” Commissioner Randy Ross said at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

According to the request, “This position (would provide) epidemiological support to Public Health’s communications, activities, and programs. Services may include research, data collection, analysis, interpretation, evaluation and presentation of information appropriate for a variety of audiences and formats.”

The position is currently in the county’s Public Heath budget, and is to fill Public Health manager Brianne Probasco’s previous position as Community Health Specialist. “As a community health specialist, Brianne conducted a lot of health and data assessment work; however, she was not trained as an epidemiologist,” according to the report. Probasco also currently serves as Public Health’s public information officer for COVID-19 response.

Ross said his conversations with Public Health Director Karolyn Holden indicated the position would be paid for through several existing grant programs and would not impact the county’s budget. The position would pay between $63,636 and $75,012 annually and would be filled as soon as possible.

Commissioner Wes Cormier requested that the position be evaluated after six months, saying he saw the position as probationary, “not a permanent position, as I see it.” Commissioner Vickie Raines said she was fine with that, though she felt the position would be needed beyond six months. In the end, the board of commissioners approved the request for hire and re-evaluating the need for the position in 5-6 months. Public Health will begin the recruitment process once the final job description is approved by the union and human resources.