Over the course of the past six months, Albion College has implemented a number of protocols and regulations to help curb the spread of COVID-19. One response to COVID-19 the college is currently undertaking is contact-tracing procedures.
Albion’s current contact-tracing protocol
Both the Calhoun County health department and Albion College are involved in the on-campus contact-tracing efforts, but the Calhoun County health department is handling most of Albion’s contact-tracing.
“Officially, the County Health Department does the tracing,” said Cheryl Krause, Albion’s chair of COVID-19 planning. “I am doing the preliminary for the students on campus so we can isolate and quarantine in an expedient manner.”
If and when an Albion College student, faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, Krause notifies the COVID-positive individual and starts to determine some of the case’s close-contacts. The aura app helps with this process.
“When a student is identified as positive, I notify them, and I ask them to share names of anyone who was with them in the last 48 hours, for more than 15 minutes and at less than six feet distance, with or without a mask,” said Kruse. “I then notify the students who have been identified as close contacts, and I instruct them in the quarantine procedure.”
Kruse then notifies the Calhoun County health department, who launches a more in-depth contact-tracing investigation.
“If the case is positive, we ask them to isolate,” said Kevin Green, Calhoun County’s environmental public health director. “We make sure they have someone to bring clothes and the things they need. We go through questionnaires about how they’re feeling and their close contacts. We speak to the case and expand their circle. This is all done within 48 hours of testing positive.”
Those deemed to be close-contacts are told to quarantine for 14 days. The health department keeps in touch with those quarantined or in isolation on-campus.
Albion’s initial contact-tracing plan
Albion first proposed the idea of enacting an on-campus contact-tracing system in April. The original plan was to have Albion students, with the help of the Lisa and James Wilson Institute for Medicine, spearhead the college’s COVID-19 contact-tracing.
“The Wilson Institute sent out an email at the beginning of the summer about a contact tracing program being offered by the John Hopkins Medical School, so we could contact trace for the college when we got back on campus,” said Tyler White, a senior from Grosse Point, Mich.
However, due to Albion’s adoption of the Aura app and the relatively low number of cases on campus, the college’s student tracers have been largely underutilized.
“Luckily, with the success of the Aura app, our cases have been incredibly controlled, and the demand for tracers is not what had been anticipated,” said Anna Crysler, a junior from Rockford Mich. “Although I am not contact-tracing on campus, my certification has given me better insight into the importance of Albion’s public health guidelines and the ability to promote this importance to my peers.”
Others are experiencing the same thing.
“Prior to returning to campus, I registered as a volunteer contact tracer through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Since then, I haven’t heard from the MDHHS or the college,” said Peter Filbrandt, a sophomore from South Haven, Mich. “I think that due to the low amount of positive test results on campus, the current demand for contact tracers is low. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad problem to have”
Filbrandt also thinks the student contact-tracers may be needed should the college’s current COVID-19 situation change.
“I think that if there’s a spike in cases at the college in the future, they would call on me and the other student contact tracers,” said Filbrandt.