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How Embracing a College’s Existing Technology Elevated Our Contact Tracing Efforts

The goals of COVID-19 contact tracing in schools are always the same: minimize the spread of the virus, keep students and staff as safe as possible, and allow in-person classes to continue. But the steps schools take to achieve these goals can vary significantly. 

In partnering with schools, colleges, and universities across the county, PubSEG has learned that no two contact tracing programs are exactly alike. For starters, each county has its own guidelines, which our university clients must follow. On top of that, each institution has its own philosophies and procedures. PubSEG is adept at customizing each program to make sure we’re in compliance with local regulations and on the same page as our partners from day one.  

That means adapting to whatever technology a school might already be using and incorporating it into our own processes. In the case of one college that we’re working with, we quickly learned how to use their existing technology to enrich our contact tracing efforts, and the program has been extremely successful as a result. 

Here are four of the ways PubSEG has used this technology to our advantage—and, more importantly, to the advantage of the students and staff at the school. 

1. Immediate response times 

All students and staff are required to complete a daily health screening on an app. When their status changes for any reason—a positive test, the onset of symptoms, possible exposure—the PubSEG team is notified via email. This allows us to get in touch with the individual and ask relevant questions right away, preventing precious time from slipping away and allowing us to immediately begin contact tracing. It also enables us to quickly evaluate the validity of the information the individual shared.  

“As soon as an email comes in, we’re on it, calling them right then and there,” explains Erin Huesser, one of PubSEG’s contact tracing supervisors. “We want to make sure we’re calling them early in the morning, so if they entered information by mistake and are actually OK, we can get them back on campus that same day.” 

2. All relevant contact information is available in one place and easily accessible  

The app also gives PubSEG immediate and conveniently organized access to all information necessary for contact tracing—phone numbers, email addresses, vaccination status, test results, student ID numbers, previous conversation details, and any other relevant data. We never have to worry about calling the school to track down or verify information.  

This not only saves time for us, but also saves time for the college’s nurses and administrators, freeing them up to focus on their day-to-day responsibilities. 

3. Students are immediately aware of their own status 

Because the app already lets students know if they are cleared for campus or not, they are not shocked when they hear from us. Sometimes, they’ll try to claim they entered their information by mistake and ask us to change their status, but PubSEG’s contact tracers are adept at determining the difference between honest mistakes and attempts to bend the rules to get out of quarantining.   

“Sometimes, they’ll put in that they have symptoms, then they’ll try to enter it again without symptoms,” says Ms. Huesser. “But they can’t change their status automatically. We have to change their status for them. Some people make legitimate errors, but more often it’s people trying to get around the system.” 

4. We always know exactly why we’re calling    

On some other programs, if a student or staff member reaches out to us themselves via phone or email and leaves a message, they might not say why they’re calling. That means when a PubSEG contact tracer calls them back, they’re not sure which script to use. Is it a positive case? Presumed positive? Symptomatic? Exposed? 

This app provides us with everything we need to know beforehand, so our contact tracers are on point with their messaging from the very start of the conversation. When calling about sensitive topics such as people’s health, that added level of knowledge can make all the difference in ensuring a productive and comfortable conversation. 

Whether we’re calling K-12 schools, small colleges, or large, multi-campus university systems, PubSEG prides itself on being a strong collaborative partner in the fight to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are committed to addressing your specific challenges, within your unique environment. 

If you’re looking for additional ways to keep your students and staff safe in 2022, give us a call. Whatever contact tracing strategies you employ, we’re ready to help.