City Coronavirus Life + Arts

Contact tracing: a Cougar writer’s path to navigating the coronavirus pandemic

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

    Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a germaphobe, I’m just acutely aware of potentially harmful particles that could be lurking on everyday surfaces. 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, I was baptizing myself in hand sanitizer at least once a day and washing my hands after touching high-contact areas, such as doorknobs or shopping carts. 

My concerns pre-coronavirus didn’t center on getting sick, but rather on falling behind in my work and my studies as a result of illness. 

Once COVID-19 reached the U.S. and cases began soaring in Texas, the fear surrounding exposure and infection piqued my anxiety and frequently derailed my daily routines. 

Instead of allowing this worry to consume me, I began working to mitigate it by informing myself about the virus and how it can be traced. 

I signed up for the course Population Health During a Pandemic: Contact Tracing and Beyond at the end of June. Created by the University, the course covers a variety of topics relating to the coronavirus and to contact tracing.

The course consists of a two-week, self-paced study that consists of 14 topics and a number of short, five to six question quizzes at the end of each topic section. 

Participants will receive a certificate upon completion for free until July 31. After this date, it will cost participants $49 to receive a certificate of program completion. 

In addition to the generally applicable course that I have completed, the University also offers a course on contact tracing specifically for UH students, faculty and staff. 

Taking part in the contact tracing course helped to mitigate my anxiety surrounding the ongoing pandemic by allowing me to learn more about the coronavirus and the work of contact tracers. 

I recommend that students interested in learning more about the coronavirus and potentially putting that knowledge to use within their communities should take a look into this course. 

Here are three aspects of the course that I enjoyed and found helpful in my own experience working through the modules:

Media variety

The course doesn’t require participants to slog through a dense textbook in order to root out the important information. 

Rather, the modules include a variety of media including videos, readings and links to websites where participants can access additional data.

The external web example that stuck with me is the New York Times data visualization of how coronavirus particles travel in the air. It was interesting to see how these microscopic particles actually travel.

Variety of information

The course goes beyond explaining the science behind the coronavirus and what it takes to be a contact tracer. 

The material covers the ways in which COVID-19 impacts specific aspects of peoples’ health, such as those related to mental health and pregnancy, as well as exploring the responsibilities and legal ramifications of a contact tracer position. 

Specifically, the explanation of the ways in which contact tracing can be useful in monitoring viral spread and contributes to public health efforts stood out. 

Ample time

The course is estimated to take just over 22 hours to complete both weeks.

Despite completing it in less than half of that time, it was a relief to have the flexibility to work at my own pace. 

The quizzes, which are timed at half an hour each, provide ample time to complete the five or six questions. And if you don’t earn a passing score the first time, it’s no problem. You can retake the quizzes as many times as you want. 

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

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