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July 2, 2020
The Houston Forensic Science Center is contracting with a private laboratory to do
weekly COVID-19 testing for staff members after at least 10 employees tested positive,
putting a strain on operations.
The Bode Technology Group will begin testing at HFSC’s downtown facility on
Monday and has committed to providing test results within 48 to 72 hours after
collection, a timeframe that allows for better mitigation of the virus’ spread.
“We have a dual goal of protecting the health and safety of our staff and continuing our
essential operation throughout this pandemic,” said Dr. Peter Stout, HFSC’s CEO and
president. “We can do neither when nearly 50 percent of people are asymptomatic, and
we are waiting a week or more for test results. By contracting with Bode, we will have
results in a timeframe that allows us to quickly get positive staff members offsite.”
At least 10 HFSC employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and about a dozen
others are self-quarantined awaiting test results, about 10 percent of the total staff.
HFSC’s relatively small staff size of about 200 people means an outbreak could easily
halt operations. It also makes it easier for HFSC to contract with a private laboratory to
screen employees.
HFSC will pilot this program in July to determine whether it more quickly identifies
staff members positive for COVID-19, making it easier to slow the spread of infection.
“Currently, more than 10 percent of our staff is out of commission,” Dr. Stout said. “We
respond to homicides and officer-involved shootings, some of the most heinous and
high-profile crimes in the city. We must find a way to remain operable for the safety of
the community, but we also have an obligation to ensure the safety of our staff.”
HFSC is a local government corporation that provides forensic services to the City of
Houston and other local agencies. HFSC is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed
by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Its management
structure is designed to be responsive to a 2009 recommendation by the National
Academy of Sciences that called for crime laboratories to be independent of law
enforcement and prosecutorial branches of government.
HFSC operates in seven forensic disciplines.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Director of Communications/PIO
713-703-4898 (cell)
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