Having a plan in place for contract tracing is a key strategy in mitigating the spread of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. The CDC states that contract tracing allows you to “trace and monitor the contacts of infected people” and notify those with whom they’ve contact of their exposure. This can also “help ensure the safe, sustainable and effective quarantine of contacts to prevent additional transmission.”
As your college and university develops a campus-wide contact tracing strategy, you may need to think through what this will look like in the residence halls specifically. How might a residence hall based process feed into or supplement a campus-wide process? Can a resident quarantine or self-isolate in a residence hall or do they need to be sent home (if possible)? Given the unique nature of residence hall communities, how might you reduce and manage panic should an outbreak occur? How can you be humane in your follow up communications with residents that may have been exposed?
Roompact Partner Resource
Roompact has developed an Ace Case to guide partners on how you can utilize our software to aid in contact tracing with residents. This resource outlines how you can collect information about who a diagnosed resident has been in contact with and follow up with the affected individuals. In addition to the Ace Case, there is also an accompanying Example Template with the Forms feature that you can copy and modify to fit your needs. You can access the Ace Case in our “Discuss” support portal.
When developing a contact tracing system for students in the residence halls, there are a number of goals you may wish to achieve. Having a plan in place for each can ensure you are prepared for when residence halls re-open. It’s possible that your campus has developed its own universal system, but organizing a secondary system in the residence halls could be beneficial as a means of ensuring all diagnosed cases are being reported. Running parallel processes and cross-referencing them for accuracy could be beneficial. Goals for contact tracing could include:
- Develop an organized system to allow staff to report residents who have contacted COVID-19.
- Identify which buildings, floors, and rooms have reported cases of COVID-19 and how many.
- Identify individuals who have been in contact with an individual who has contracted COVID-19.
- Communicate with individuals who may have had potential exposure to COVID-19.
In addition to and related to contact tracing, you may need to think through other details, such as:
- What is the plan for residents who require quarantine or self-isolation?
- What increased cleaning or other policies will come into effect if a case is diagnosed on a residence hall floor?
- How can you handle student concerns and mental health stress related to potential exposure?
- How can you ensure your staff are informed and protected throughout this process?
Roompact Partner Tips!
Roompact users can use “Room Statuses” to color code rooms affected by COVID-19. Changing the status of a room leaves a note on the Room Timeline and changes the color of the room to green, yellow, or red. Typically a room color may indicate a roommate conflict is occurring in that room, but with COVID-19, you could use the Room Statuses to indicate the presence of a diagnosed case, or exposure to a case. Example:
- Green – No indicated cases or exposure
- Yellow – Rooms adjacent to a diagnosed case
- Red – Presence of a diagnosed case
Questions to Ask a Diagnosed Resident
Creating a contact tracing form or other method utilizing digital tools can be one of the easiest ways to organize your information and make it accessible to responders who need to take action. When a resident is diagnosed with COVID-19 (or begins to exhibit potential symptoms), you will want to identify the following information. Remember that HIPAA, FERPA, and other privacy requirements may impact the way you go about collecting, communicating, and determining access to this type of information.
What room do they live in? What floor? What building?
Depending on these geographic factors, you will need to be ready to know what levels of communication and response you have identified for each.
Who was the resident in contact with within the two weeks preceding onset of symptoms?
Beyond the geographies impacted, there may be other individuals that need to be notified through a broader campus response system.
What other ares of campus did the student frequent and when within the two weeks preceding onset of symptoms?
This can give you a sense as to where you may need to monitor your social distancing practices and potentially take action to modify access to areas on campus.
There are a number of resources that may be of help to you as you explore options for contact tracing and containing the virus in campus housing. Of particular note:
- The Center for Disease Control’s Contact Tracing resource page. This page includes guidelines, training programs, and other details about how these systems can and should work.
- The American College Health Association Guidelines on Reopening Campus Housing (see page 9). This resource includes suggestion on how to configure your campus housing and room assignments, how to manage common spaces, and information you should provide to and educate your residents on. The ACHA also has a more generalized resource page on COVID-19.
- The Association of College and University Housing Officers, International COVID-19 Checklist. This checklist includes a number of items you will need to think about as you prepare for student housing under COVID-19. It includes housing operation changes, information on how to prepare staff, mitigations strategies, and suggested actions to ensure quarantine/self-isolation procedures are in place. ACUHO-I also had a more generalized resource page on COVID-19.