*Name changed to protect identity
As Lawrence has experienced its first positive COVID-19 cases on campus, the contact tracing process has officially been implemented. As part of this process, the Pandemic Planning Team has already developed plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and continually reevaluates for changes.
The Director of Health Services Campus Nurse, Jillian Drier, explains those efforts.
Drier stated that the Wisconsin Division of Public Health (DPH) utilizes every opportunity to complete contact tracing interviews with anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19. Healthcare providers and laboratories are required to report positive COVID-19 tests to the DPH. The report will also initiate the contact tracing process at the local health department.
According to Drier, a trained contact tracer will contact the person who tested positive and conduct an interview. The contact tracer will inform the person about COVID-19 symptoms, complications and resources, also providing other educational materials. The contact tracer and the infected person will determine who may have been exposed to the illness during the infectious period.
“Contact tracers are trained to help people remember close contacts by prompting different situations and asking different questions,” Drier said.
Alex Puffer* was one of the students who tested positive on campus. He received the positive result four days after taking the test, after which he was quarantined for 14 consecutive days.
According to Puffer, within two or three days, he was first contacted by the Dean of Students, who told him what to expect in the next several days. Then he was contacted separately by the City of Appleton and the Health Department. During these two calls, he was asked similar questions, such as where he had been, who he had been in contact with, whether he had been traveling and if there was anyone he had been in contact with who had tested positive.
Puffer said he managed to name the majority of people he had close contact with, as he acknowledged the importance of protecting the people around him.
After the interview, according to Drier, the DPH or a partner, such as Wellness Services, will notify anyone identified as a close contact of the infected individual and go through a similar process of contact tracing. This procedure is intended to investigate the source of infection and help to notify people who may have been exposed, therefore stopping or slowing down the spreading of COVID-19.
“We ask that everyone provides the best information possible,” Drier said. “Providing false information or withholding information on purpose hurts our entire community.”
According to Drier, providing false information would lead to consequences as a result of dishonoring The Pledge. The person who provides false information would be referred to the administration, and the Health Department is able to issue an isolation or quarantine order for someone putting the community’s health at risk.
While the contact tracing procedure continues, Drier also expresses her thankfulness to the student body for their efforts to keep the campus as safe as possible.
“Thank you for doing your part to protect our community,” Drier said. “Please continue to follow our … pledge, keep six-feet distancing, wear your mask and wash your hands frequently to protect yourself and others around you. Stay well!”