More than a year and a half after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions at all levels are still scrambling to figure out the best ways to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. Quarantines, the Delta variant, and vaccine and mask policies are as much the subjects of classroom discussion as reading, math, and science.
Dealing with surging COVID cases among young people and trying to prevent further spread of the virus has placed an added burden on administrators and educators whose time was already stretched thin. The crucial task of contact tracing is often being handled haphazardly, or perhaps not at all. Even schools with comprehensive COVID policies might lack the time, resources, and workforce to properly enforce them.
The Washington, D.C. public school system, for example, has a team of just 10 fulltime contact tracers responsible for 52,000 total students, and the onus of determining who must quarantine after exposure has fallen largely upon principals, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. Parents have been frustrated with the time it’s taken schools to notify the community of positive tests, according to the article.
Shifting all or some of that responsibility to an outside partner can make all the difference in protecting campuses and classrooms. PubSEG (Public Safety and Economic Growth) was established last year to be that partner.
PubSEG is a consortium of like-minded, health-conscious organizations, led by South Jersey-based call center VSA Prospecting and supported by PRWT Services and CONTRACE. VSA quickly emerged as PubSEG’s driving force, parlaying its 20 years of lead generation and appointment-setting experience into hiring, training, and managing stand-alone teams of qualified contact tracers dedicated exclusively to ensuring that all COVID cases are addressed appropriately.
VSA’s philosophy has always been about building genuine relationships through human-to-human connections—a mindset that naturally translates to contact tracing, where gaining trust and expressing empathy are essential.
“We started this in part because we realized we already had the infrastructure in place,” says Kerry Dougherty, PubSEG’s Head of Sales. “It’s the same idea as what VSA has always done—calling up strangers on the phone and having a conversation with them. It’s all about that human-to-human connection.”
VSA brings more than just telephone experience to PubSEG. The company is HIPAA compliant and has a wealth of healthcare knowledge, based on years of relationships with clients in the industry. Dawn Stolte, PubSEG’s Head of Operations, is a former nurse and director of a vocational training school for healthcare.
VSA’s experience also enabled the company to smoothly implement all necessary data and patient privacy measures.
“We’ve always had an interest in healthcare,” says Valerie Schlitt, VSA’s CEO and founder and PubSEG’s top executive. “It’s in our DNA. I come from a family of pediatricians. It’s always been a part of my work life and my family life.”
PubSEG’s first client was a multi-state university system, consisting of six campuses across three states. Since then, the organization has partnered with other colleges and K-12 schools to provide contact tracing, guidance on next steps, and clearance to return to campus, customizing each program to match the needs of the individual institutions.
Each client is assigned its own dedicated team, working seven days a week, with bilingual support if requested.
PubSEG is focused specifically on schools right now because of the gravity of their situations, but its services are available to any company in need of assistance in slowing the spread of COVID.
The qualities PubSEG provides include:
- Responsiveness: The team is available day or night, ready to step in the moment someone tests positive.
- Scalability: PubSEG can provide as many or as few contact tracers as needed and can scale up rapidly when cases surge.
- Support: If you already have a process in place, PubSEG will learn your approach and deliver additional resources to follow your proven steps. If there is no existing process, PubSEG will build one for you.
- Empathy: PubSEG’s team of seasoned callers will treat students with the same care you would, approaching each conversation with the sincerity and compassion necessary to make contact tracing effective.
- Expertise: PubSEG’s team is built from a pool of more than 100,000 experienced contact tracers, prioritizing those from medical, public health, and social work backgrounds.
“Sometimes people aren’t really happy to hear from us because they really want to go back to class or they don’t believe COVID is as bad as it is,” Ms. Dougherty says. “What we really try to do is connect with them on a human level, so they’ll listen to our advice. For the most part, we’re very successful there.
“Some folks, they might be scared or worried or just angry, and most of the time, we’re able to really explain the situation and connect with them.”
Unfortunately, it seems it will be a while before life on campus and in the classroom returns to normal, but in the meantime, PubSEG is available to help in any way possible. If your institution needs a hand coping with the COVID crisis, PubSEG could be the partner you need.
Give us a call at 856-240-8117 and let us join you in ensuring a safer educational environment. We look forward to working with you.