To the University community:
As we move into the spring semester, and a return to campus for colleagues and students, I want to take this opportunity to provide some additional detail on the modified and expanded contact tracing program that La Salle has launched—a cornerstone of our COVID-19 planning.
This past fall, with only a limited campus presence, we leaned upon members of our community to guide La Salle’s contact tracing efforts. In all, about 40 nursing and social work students certified by Johns Hopkins University worked in tandem with faculty members and administrators to maintain shifts in small, physically distanced cohorts. These students practiced great compassion as they placed calls and offered counsel and access to resources to students who had self-disclosed positive test results, triggering a cascade of even-wider outreach to those with whom they had come into contact.
Contact tracing remains one of the most-integral public health tactics in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. As we prepare for an in-person experience this spring, with what will be a much-larger campus presence, we certainly require a more-robust contact tracing program than the model we utilized in the fall.
I would like to provide more information regarding the University’s contact tracing program and share important tips on how you can help our efforts.
Our contact tracing program has increased in staffing and hours of operation. The program will be staffed seven days a week with the hire of six full-time employees, including a contact tracing program manager, who dually reports to Dr. Scott Cook, Director of Student Health, and Kristin Heasley, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources. Questions related to COVID-19 exposure and/or test results should be directed to COVID19@lasalle.edu.
Unlike the fall semester, when students and employees were asked to self-disclose positive test results via email, we have created a disclosure form that can be completed by anyone in our campus community. You should complete the form if:
The submission of this form triggers the critical next steps to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep our community safe.
Case investigation and contact notification
Once the disclosure form is completed and submitted, the individual will be contacted by a case investigator who is employed by the University. The case investigator will conduct an interview to help identify those with whom they have come into close contact (within six feet for at least 15 minutes).
To support expediency, those identified as close contacts of the individual who tested positive will receive automated notification via email and/or text message. Upon receipt, those exposed should begin quarantining immediately in order to limit exposure to others. A contact tracer will follow up with close contacts via a phone call.
To respect and ensure privacy, La Salle’s contact tracing team will not disclose to close contacts the name or any identifying information of the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Close contacts will receive only a date of exposure.
How you can help
Cooperation with the University’s contact tracing program is key, if we are to have a successful and sustainable in-person experience in Spring 2021. There are several ways in which students and employees can help:
For students, the amnesty clause for student conduct will be in effect—meaning information gathered through contact tracing will not be held against a student regarding their conduct. If you test positive, are symptomatic, or have been exposed, it is critically important to the University that you contact us regarding your health. Learning how you contracted the virus and with whom you may have come into contact, even if it means failed compliance with city or university guidelines, will help us mitigate the spread and maintain a safe and healthy campus community.
Additionally, you can help by continuing to practice the public-health cornerstones that have guided and protected us at every turn: Wear a face mask everywhere, indoors and outdoors, and make sure it covers your nose and mouth. Wash your hands regularly, with either soap and water or hand sanitizer. Monitor your symptoms daily. And do not gather with those outside of your household.
These are responsibilities shared by all members of our community. Together, with cooperation from everyone and respect for all, I am confident we can have a successful semester.
Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.