By Debbie Stasolla
I very much appreciate the work The Rider News is doing to help provide COVID-19 related information to our campus community.
I would like, however, to clarify a few things. Contact tracing is one of a number of important tools to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Based on Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, contact tracing is a standard process implemented across the country. It requires working with the COVID positive individual to determine close contacts while also keeping the identity of the COVID positive individual as confidential as possible. A close contact is anyone who has been within 6 feet of a COVID positive individual for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period during the individual’s infectious period as well as someone who lives with or had physical contact with a COVID positive individual.
Our contact tracers, who are trained and experienced Rider employees, have the advantage that they know Rider and our students, faculty and staff well and can dig deeper with COVID positive individuals to jog their memory and determine close contacts. They can act much quicker than state contact tracers can when a positive case is identified, providing much more specific information and support including their direct contact information so they can respond quickly when students or others have questions or concerns.
I understand why some believe our contact tracers should employ the assistance of faculty in all student cases. But we have to remember that we also have the responsibility to protect individuals’ privacy. Where we feel it important or helpful to request faculty or other assistance in the contact tracing process, we do so, particularly when someone’s memory or knowledge of names is a bit “fuzzy.” But it is not necessary for every case and should be employed with great care. The fact that our cases are still relatively low speaks, in part, to the success of the contact tracing process as we have employed it to date.
I would also like to clarify that our testing protocols are based on CDC guidance and rooted in the knowledge of how the virus spreads. In addition to attending to ill students, the Student Health Center provides testing to those who require it as per CDC guidance – symptomatic students and those who are identified as close contacts. Off-campus testing options are available should anyone wish to get tested outside of those circumstances. Knowing of someone who is positive or being a roommate of a close contact without you, yourself, being identified as a close contact, for instance, does not mean that testing would be meaningful nor is it recommended by the CDC. I understand that it may provide some peace of mind but that peace of mind may be misplaced if you are not getting the right test and at the appropriate time.
There is much understandable anxiety surrounding COVID-19, making it all the more important that we provide information and communicate regularly as part of our work to mitigate the spread of the virus and to help keep our community as safe as possible. Our robust Resolved and Ready website provides a great deal of detailed information. We send regular, but not too many, updates via email and we meet with students and departments when requested. We also reach out to and share very detailed information with those who are COVID positive, symptomatic or who are identified as close contacts, making ourselves available beyond working hours to address questions and concerns.
That alone, however, is insufficient. Each of us has the responsibility to keep up to date with COVID related information, reading thoroughly what we send and adhering to our guidelines. In particular and just as important as contact tracing and testing is the responsibility we have to wear masks indoors, be honest about being symptomatic, not coming to class or campus when we are ill and reaching out immediately to the Student Health Center [students] or our primary healthcare provider [employees] when we are symptomatic to determine next steps. Together, we can continue to enjoy more normal operations, help keep one another safe and gradually learn to live with this virus.
If you have questions or concerns, you can always reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We monitor these accounts regularly. You can also contact the Student Health Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-chair, COVID-19 Implementation Team
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning
Originally printed in the 12/08/21 issue