Student and Academic Life

Step by Step of What to Expect If You Hear From a Contact Tracer

Mark Cornelison | UKphoto
Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 31, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Health Corps team is leading the charge to support a safe reinvented normal on campus. Included in their work is contact tracing of COVID-19 to stop the spread of it on campus. The contact tracer’s goal is to reach every person who has tested positive and restrict their contact with others before the virus can spread to another.

Here is a step-by-step explanation of what to expect if you hear from a contact tracer. It's important to listen to and follow the instructions of any Health Corps case manager who contacts you. It's also good to know the terminology:  

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. People who test positive are isolated.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. People who have been in close contact with a sick person or positive case are quarantined.

Initial contact from Health Corps:

  1. A Health Corps contact tracer will call to inform you that you have tested positive and will explain what the test result means including details of symptoms, high-risk pre-existing medical conditions and what to do if more severe symptoms develop. They will also discuss resources available to you and create an isolation plan with you. This includes addressing any academic, food or housing needs — regardless of whether a student lives on or off campus.  
  2. They will also ask you who you have been in close contact with — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines close contact as within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes even if you were wearing a face covering. 
  3. After they get off the call with you, arrangements are made for a wellness connector to call you. Meanwhile, the contact tracer will start to reach out to UK-affiliated contacts you provided and inform them they came into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Those who receive a call will never know the name of the person who tested positive — that information remains confidential. Contact tracers will contact students, faculty and staff at UK who are considered to have had high-risk exposure (close contact) with a positive case.
  4. For any contacts who are not members of the UK community, such as a friend in the positive case's hometown, Health Corps sends those names to the individual’s local health department, and that health department will take care of the contact tracing with those people. 
  5. The key here is that people who have been in close contact with a positive case are asked to quarantine. This quarantine process prevents the spread of the virus among people who may have contracted it but don't know that yet.

Next steps for those who test positive:

  1. If symptoms are mild, the individual will be asked to continue communicating with their local health department. If concerns are noted in the initial call, the patient receives immediate follow-up on a case-by-case basis depending on needs. 
  2. The local health department (wherever the individual is isolating) will provide the final release from isolation (an actual document) to those who tested positive. That documentation must be sent to Health Corps. Once that document has been received, a team member will respond through email with a final release.
  3. It is the student’s responsibility to keep their contact information up to date in the MyUK portal, should a case manager ever need to contact you. Students should also remember to report to faculty that they will not be in class due to testing positive or due to quarantining because of contact with a positive case. Health Corps does not provide that information to faculty members.

Contact tracing will continue throughout the Fall 2020 semester and as long as necessary. UK is taking the advice of and working closely with local health departments and public health officials during this time. If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 on campus, please email or call 859-218-7233 (SAFE).

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 three 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" two 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 four 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.