LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 4, 2021) — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Kentucky assembled UK Health Corps — a dedicated team of staff to support students. But what do they do, exactly? And, who are they?
While many students and faculty/staff members may interact with Health Corps members on a regular basis, you may not know exactly what it is that they do each day, and the names of the people behind the phone calls and emails.
UK Health Corps works behind the scenes, serving as the support hub for accessing services, information and referrals related to COVID-19 for students, faculty and staff.
UKNow sat down with contact tracers Maya Cleveland and Christine Schraff to learn about who they are, what they do for UK Health Corps, and what they want students to know.
UKNow: Could you describe your role within Health Corps?
Cleveland: I am a contact tracer at UK Health Corps and my role is to identify individuals who may have come into contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
Schraff: I am a contact tracer case manager. I’m also a licensed RN.
UKNow: What is a typical day like in your role?
Cleveland: I call individuals who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to notify them of their test result. I then gather basic demographic and health information that is important data for the CDC and the health department. I walk through their infectious period to see who they could’ve exposed. Once we identify those individuals, we call and let them know to quarantine. That way, if they get infected with COVID-19 while in quarantine, they end up not spreading it to others.
Schraff: I notify students and employees of their positive COVID-19 test. I perform a small health assessment and provide education on COVID-19 signs and symptoms including what to look for and when and who to contact if symptoms begin or worsen. I place people in isolation and discuss why it is important to isolate, how to safely isolate, and together we develop an isolation plan. I assess for any resource needs that could keep them from isolating such as food, medication, mental health services and academics. I then perform a contact trace to determine who they may have exposed during their infectious period and if they know how they were exposed.
I construct a timeline of day-to-day activities going back two days prior to start of symptoms or the COVID-19 test date if they are asymptomatic. If an exposed individual is affiliated with UK, I create a case in our secure system so that the student or employee can be contacted and placed in quarantine. Non-UK contacts are shared with the local health department where the exposed individual lives for follow up and quarantine case management. We then go over what to expect, such as "be on the lookout for contact from their local health department." The local health department determines when the student or employee can be released from isolation which is typically 10 days from start of symptoms.
UKNow: What do you want the community to understand about your role/Health Corps?
Cleveland: We want the community to know that we just want to keep everyone safe. We don’t want to seem invasive, but all of the information given to us is truly important and helpful in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Schraff: I am here to help and support you.
UKNow: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the pandemic is over?
Schraff: Travel — Portugal is on the top of my list.
UKNow: What would you like students to know about what you do?
Cleveland: I want students to know that UK Health Corps is a resource for them. We provide support for students, faculty and staff infected or exposed to COVID-19. We can connect them with a variety of resources to best accommodate their needs.
Schraff: I’m here to provide education and support, develop an individualized plan of care, assist with any resource needs, and try to make this as easy as possible.
UKNow: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about Health Corps?
Cleveland: UK Health Corps is not meant to punish people for living their everyday lives. We appreciate transparency and honesty and therefore, people will not be penalized for telling the truth. We want to keep the campus community safe and that requires responsiveness.
Schraff: We’re not the bad guys. We are non-judgmental and not associated with law enforcement. All the information we obtain is confidential and only used for the public health purpose of contact tracing. We’re simply trying to keep our campus and community safe and healthy.
UKNow: If you could sum up into one sentence what Health Corps is, and what it does for campus, what would you say?
Cleveland: UK Health Corps is a support hub for our students/staff infected or exposed to COVID-19 — we are here to help reinvent a new normal.
Schraff: We are an interdisciplinary group consisting of communications, wellness connectors and contact tracer case managers who are working to keep the campus and community safe and healthy.
The UK Health Corps is made up of more than 50 dedicated staff members working to keep our campus healthy and safe by managing everything from contact tracing and academic coordination to transportation and communications. For more information on the schedule of activities or about UK Health Corps, please call 859-218-SAFE (7233) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the University of Kentucky commemorates one year of battling COVID-19, we’re reminded of our promise to the Commonwealth and each other. Every corner of our campus — from UK HealthCare to Athletics, from our Emergency Operations Center to volunteers in our health colleges and across this university — has united for a common purpose. And, when members of our community come together with the heart to step up, there is almost no challenge too large, no obstacle too daunting, to overcome. Because of this community — its resilience, compassion and expertise — we have experienced, even in the face of a global pandemic, what is wildly possible.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.