Salt Lake Community College is using contact tracing to alert students, faculty and staff of any possible COVID-19 transmissions that may happen on SLCC campuses during the pandemic.
“Contract tracing means we are making efforts to keep our college community healthier and safer through the process of identifying who may have been exposed to COVID-19,” said Lisa Schwartz, an emergency manager for the Department of Public Safety at SLCC. “It is also trying to help prevent any further exposures by gathering information and helping to provide resources to those that need it.”
SLCC’s contact tracing program started in March, shortly after the official arrival of COVID-19 in the United States. Since then, Schwartz and those who are a part of the SLCC COVID-19 Response Team have done their best to spread the word of the program.
“We start by trying to educate our students, faculty and staff on the importance of doing a self-report,” Schwartz said. “By doing this, it allows our contact tracing team to conduct an interview with that person to see where they have been and who they have interacted with on our campuses.”
According to Schwartz, the process is confidential with two exceptions.
“We notify the instructor so they can work with the student to be sure they continue to be successful during their illness,” she said. “We also notify a staff member’s supervisor so they can work with their employee and provide as many resources to them and support them in their recovery.”
If an SLCC student or staff member comes into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and has alerted the college, a member of the SLCC COVID-19 Response Team will attempt to call those who have been exposed. If the call isn’t answered, then a follow-up email is sent.
“The caller ID and the email address will say, ‘SLCC COVID-19 Response Team’,” Schwartz said.
Contact tracing isn’t a new concept. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact tracing has been used in the past to help control the Ebola virus disease in Africa and to track and trace the spread of STDs, such as HIV and AIDS.
“The first advice I would give is to wear a face covering,” she said. “Maintain social distancing and wash your hands frequently as it clearly shows to make a difference.”