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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Coronavirus

University contact tracing team works to slow coronavirus spread


The UH contact tracing team offers education, information and support to UH community members who have tested positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to a positive case or have experienced coronavirus symptoms. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

As the pandemic continues to impact communities worldwide, contact tracers are working to slow the spread of coronavirus by tracing backwards from individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to identify and alert people they may have come into contact with. 

The University contact tracing team has been tracing coronavirus cases within the UH community since June.

Comprised of UH staff members that have completed the University of Houston and Johns Hopkins University contact tracing curricula programs, the team provides education, information and support on risk, quarantine and illness monitoring. 

“The UH contact tracing program allows the University to quickly connect with individuals who may have been exposed on campus and advise them of the self-quarantine requirements and testing resources,” executive director of Media Relations Shawn Lindsey said. 

Following the submission of a Reporting COVID-19 Diagnosis/Symptoms form, the case response team assigns the case to a contact tracer.

The contact tracer then begins the investigation by reaching out to the individual that has tested positive for COVID-19 to identify and notify close contacts who could have come into contact with them while they were infectious. 

“(Contact tracers) begin the investigation by calling the individual who tested positive or was diagnosed and asking pertinent questions related to the contact tracing process,” Lindsey said.

“Once complete, (contact tracers) log the information. If any close contacts are identified, the contact tracer notifies them of their potential exposure and provides guidance on next steps.” 

The contact tracer follows up with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 seven days after a case has been opened to evaluate progress and remind them of protocols for returning to campus.

All UH community members who have been under self-isolation or self-quarantine due to lab-confirmed or suspected COVID-19 must complete a request form before they can return to campus.

This includes all community members who have been potentially exposed to coronavirus and those exhibiting one or more coronavirus symptoms, with or without diagnosis. 

Information gathered by contact tracers about specific cases allows the University to take specialized action to mitigate further coronavirus spread within the community.

Contact tracers will not disclose the names of individuals involved in the contact tracing process.

“Relevant information about a specific case response, such as which building may need additional cleaning or if services need to be provided to a student in self-isolation on campus, are coordinated through the University’s case and outbreak response team,” Lindsey said. 

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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