Contact tracing through a pandemic

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Maggie Pasterz

Jessie Lehman, Contributing Writer

As Tulane University enters its fourth week of classes, more and more students are transitioning in and out of quarantine. Tulane’s contact tracing team identifies close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19. 

According to Alicia Czachowski, a member of the contact tracing team, Tulane’s contact tracing team consists of nine full-time contact tracers and 18 part-time contact tracers. This team utilizes a process that was developed over the summer with inspiration from Johns Hopkins University’s training programs and their recommendations in addition to CDC guidelines

Sophomore Samantha Goldberg, who is currently isolating at the Hyatt Regency hotel, explained the process she underwent following her suitemate testing positive for COVID-19. 

Goldberg’s suitemate tested positive around noon on a Wednesday and was contacted by a contact tracer that evening around 6 p.m. Her suitemate told the contact tracer who she had come in close contact with in the past 48 hours and Goldberg and her other two roommates were contacted. 

Goldberg was asked if she had any COVID-19 symptoms and then was given the following options: quarantining off-campus or staying in the Hyatt — an accommodation strictly for students who have been exposed but have not yet tested positive. 

Her case manager reached out to Goldberg and her roommates shortly after and confirmed all of the logistics. Goldberg and her roommate took a shuttle to the Hyatt and arrived there at 9 p.m. that night. 

Goldberg’s case manager emailed all of her professors to make them aware of Goldberg’s situation. Her case manager also has made herself widely available over email for any questions Goldberg may have had. 

Students in the Hyatt are tested on the fifth and 12th days of their quarantine, according to Goldberg. If they test positive, they will be moved to either isolate in Paterson Hall or seperate off-campus accommodation for an additional 10 days. 

After experiencing Tulane’s contact tracing system, Goldberg expressed her confidence in their plan.

“We were contacted the day of and it seemed like they had done it many times and had it under control,” Goldberg said. “Since our case manager has been really responsive, she has honestly made this a lot better.”

Goldberg also articulated her concerns for the future, however, as she feels the Hyatt may become overwhelmed by the volume of students it needs to serve. 

The process is constantly being refined as the team continues their work and more students face exposure, according to Czachowski. 

“There is no template for how something like this can work perfectly on a college campus so we are continually adjusting our plan and learning as we go,” Czachowski said. 

Hiring additional contact tracers, increasing the number of phone lines and relocating the team to a larger office space are recent adjustments that Tulane has made. 

With over 953 students quarantining in Paterson Hall, the Hyatt Regency hotel or Tulane’s off-campus accommodations as of Sept. 3, there is a very high demand for the team’s services. Czachowski says the goal of the contact tracing team is to work with students as quickly and efficiently as possible.