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Unpredictability of COVID-19 Keeps Contact Tracers on Their Toes

If there’s one thing PubSEG has learned about contact tracing since our formation in the spring of 2020, it’s that there’s always something new to learn about contact tracing. 

No matter how comfortable or experienced our contact tracers become, the unpredictability of COVID-19 ensures that there are always new challenges that arise, new guidelines to follow, new trends to react to. 

Never was this more apparent than the rise of omicron back in January, when case numbers surged and organizations across the country wondered if contact tracing was even sustainable.   

PubSEG never backed down from the challenge. Instead of letting omicron overwhelm us, we developed new ways to help colleges, universities, and K-12 schools address the rising number of cases and slow the spread of the virus. 

“During omicron, we were forced to go in different directions and do things in ways we hadn’t done before,” says PubSEG founder Valerie Schlitt. “We developed new reporting and new capabilities to our platform that made us stronger and better positioned to serve our clients.” 

The omicron surge won’t be the last time contact tracing programs are forced to adapt on the fly. With case numbers trending downward and the recent relaxation of federal mask-wearing guidelines, it’s understandable why people might feel like COVID-19 is behind them. But that’s not close to the truth. 

Just look at the rest of the world. Hong Kong experienced a record number of cases on February 25. As of late February, Germany was still experiencing a record number of infections, prompting their health minister to warn people against assuming the pandemic was over. 

There’s also uncertainty surrounding the omicron subvariant BA.2, which is believed to be about 30 percent more transmissible than the original omicron variant. Danish scientists recently confirmed that the new subvariant can reinfect people who have previously had omicron, although so far it doesn’t appear to be all that common.  

The point is, there will always be new challenges in combatting COVID-19, and contact tracers will always need to find new tools to best keep people safe. 

Here are some of the recent adjustments PubSEG has made:      

1. Increased secure email communication  

The phone is still the most effective way of communicating during contact tracing, but the sheer number of cases during the omicron surge made it difficult, if not impossible, to reach out to everybody that way. By increasing the number of secure email notifications, we’ve been able to ensure that we’re still making contact with the right people in a timely manner. If they don’t answer the first time, they get a second email asking them to call us back.  

On one of our programs, emails are sent to all our case investigations, and they fill out the details of their case online. PubSEG’s advanced technology allows for seamless—and secure—communication via email or schools’ online portals.    

This increased reliance on email communication has helped make our contact tracing programs more efficient and cost-effective, while still complying with all CDC guidelines.  

2. Enhanced tracking of vaccine records and test results  

PubSEG has created its own platform for monitoring vaccination records and test results, which are both important factors during contact tracing and can help determine which close contacts are most at risk. 

Isolation and quarantine protocols vary based on vaccination status and test results, so having an easy way to receive and store these documents, especially for schools that do not use an electronic medical records system, enhances our ability to give accurate guidance. Our custom-designed software allows us to retrieve copies of vaccination cards and validate the accuracy of test results. 

Schools have seen students try multiple tricks to avoid quarantine requirements—from submitting the same test result twice to lying about vaccination status. The combination of our technology and experienced team members can quickly determine if the documentation they share is valid.  

3. Communicating to schools the students’ expected return dates 

Prior to omicron, we handled this on a case-by-case basis, sending separate emails clearing individual students to return. But this did not provide schools with a convenient way to keep track of return dates for all students in isolation or quarantine.    

Since then, we’ve worked with our developers to create a new reporting procedure that collectively lists all students’ expected return dates, making it easier for schools to keep track of this information and quickly determine if students are coming back prematurely. 

The reports are delivered daily and can include full lists of students and staff in isolation or quarantine. Of course, not all schools require the same information, so the reports are customized to match each of our client’s needs.  

With so many more students affected in recent months, it was essential that we found new and more effective ways to provide schools with this valuable information. They asked us for it, and we delivered.   


With many schools changing the way they conduced contact tracing during the omicron surge, it helped to have a partner with the ability improvise and adapt. At PubSEG, we’re always looking for the most efficient ways possible to serve our clients.  

Hopefully, there won’t be any more surges in cases like the one we saw during omicron. But PubSEG will be ready if there are. 

Whether you’ve got a plan in place but could use outside assistance in carrying it out, or you’re not certain exactly how to deal with the ever-changing COVID landscape, consider giving us a call. We’re always prepared to help you meet whatever new challenges lie ahead.