Tracking COVID-19 among students

XU and TriHealth are implementing contact tracing to track COVID-19

Written by: alex budzynski
The Testing, Treatment and Tracing plan is part of several precautions by
the university to ensure the fall semester is safe for people on campus.

As a part of Xavier’s COVID-19 Testing, Treatment and Tracing plan, the university has developed in-depth contact tracing protocols to protect the wellbeing of students who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Contact tracing involves identifying those who are likely to get sick after being around someone who has contracted COVID-19. In conjunction with TriHealth, Xavier is prepared to help students recall everyone they have come into close contact with recently, thereby tracing the spread of the virus on campus.

Close contact is defined as anyone that has been less than six feet apart for more than 15 minutes.  

Associate Provost and Chief Student Affairs Officer Dave Johnson explained the necessity of a robust contact tracing program.“A really important part of the puzzle (of returning to campus) is being able to trace and to track the engagement of students who might be COVID-19 positive so that we can identify anyone else who may have been impacted,” he said. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 they will initially be contacted by staff from health services, advising them to self-isolate and monitor their symptoms. 

If it is safe and feasible for that student to return to their home or family, that it will be recommended they do so. 

Residential students who do not have the ability to return to their primary residence will be moved to the isolation spaces on campus: the University Apartments or Manor House. 

Those who test positive and anyone who has been in close contact will likely be isolated or quarantined for two weeks. Simultaneously, COVID-positive students will be contacted by additional resources, including care management officials and contact tracers. 

Contact tracers are individuals from across the Xavier community trained to support students through the tracing process. 

They will assist students in completing a questionnaire that will determine close contacts. This list will likely include roommates and close friends.

“Our hope is that people won’t have lots of close contacts, and if they do, we will capture that and communicate with them,” Johnson said.

In the coming days, a COVID-19 Dashboard will be made available on the Xavier website, which will document the number of COVID cases reported to Xavier. 

Those identified as close contacts will be advised to have a COVID-19 test. The classmates of the infected student will also be contacted via email. 

“Let’s say that someone in your class was to be diagnosed COVID-19 positive…so far as you have abided by our recommended safe practices, remaining six feet apart and remaining masked, we don’t think you’re at significant risk,” Johnson said. “We think the campus has been redesigned in a way to maximize students’ safety.”

Along the same lines, student programs are organized in a way that abides by social distancing guidelines, so as to minimize risk at on-campus events.

Privacy is a priority of the university throughout this process. Personal information will not be divulged to any member of the community that is contacted. 

Associate Dean of Students Jean Griffin explained that each case will have its own nuances. 

“What we are learning is that it will be a pretty individualized process,” she said. 

The university is prepared to help students through any sort of academic distress, food insecurity, mental health problems or other challenges they are facing. 

“We want to support any student who is or may be impacted by COVID-19,” Johnson said.

“The most important thing is that people fully participate in these processes,” Johnson explained. “Contact tracing is one of the keys to stopping the spread, so we want to fully commit to our Testing, Treatment, Tracing Program.”

Griffin coupled this by speaking to the uncharted territory this pandemic brings the university. 

“We have to keep this going because it is new to all us, it is hard to process sometimes, so we will see this in an ongoing way through posts and events,” she said. 

Information about the Testing, Treatment, Tracing Plan from the Office of Student Affairs is being shared through the @LifeatXU Instagram page.