NC State sets up COVID-19 contact tracing program for students, staff

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- NC State has rolled out a contact tracing program for students and faculty as they prepare for Fall semester.

"There is a not insignificant proportion of people who do not have symptoms but are still positive, and could transmit the illness. This is an opportunity for us to identify those people early, maybe before they have symptoms and get them connected to the right resources and maybe get them tested," said Dr. Julie Casani, the university's Medical Director of Student Health Services.

Anybody on-campus who tests positive is encouraged to submit a self-report form online.

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At that point, university staff will begin tracing, reaching out to others on-campus and to the Wake County Health Department if any contacts happened off-campus.

Staff will check-in daily, while the infected individuals are asked to fill out a daily online tracking form with their symptoms.

"If someone tests positive, we keep them in self-isolation for 10 days at least from the onset of symptoms, and make sure they haven't had a fever for 72 hours off of any kind of medication to keep your fever down and make sure that they're no longer symptomatic before they go back," said Dr. Casani.

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The contact tracing program is currently in place, with Dr. Casani noting they have received strong feedback from those who have been contacted, many of whom have been faculty members.

Staff are hopeful the personal relationships they've developed with students will help ease the process.

"A lot of the students know us already because they've come to Student Health for other reasons. Maybe they've been diagnosed at Student Health. So they know us already. So they're talking to the providers who take care of them already, so it's kind of nice. There's a closeness there," said Dr. Casani.

People who test positive are not required to take part in the contact tracing program, as the university does not have the legal authority to compel them to do so.

Dr. Casani said that staff do not reveal who the infected individual is when contact tracing.

NC State defines 'close contact' as being within six feet for 10-15 minutes, regardless if a mask was worn.

"If it's a case, we follow them for 10 days if they don't get symptoms. And if it's a close contact, (we follow) for 14 days," said Dr. Casani.

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Facial coverings will be required on-campus when social distancing is not possible, and the university has a free mask program to give masks to those who need one.

Classrooms and schedules have been rearranged to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Dr. Casani added partitions have also been put up in some rooms to further protect people.

If a student does test positive, the university would encourage them to self-isolate at home if possible.

If they are unable to safely isolate at home, the university is setting up extra housing options to assist them.

"We have set aside a small number of residence hall rooms and apartments where we would be able to isolate somebody by themselves with the appropriate bathrooms and kitchen. We also would support them food-wise while they're there because we don't want them going out," Dr. Casani said, adding they would also provide some cleaning supplies.

To learn more about NC State's contact tracing program, click here.

To learn more about their other coronavirus procedures, click here.
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