Tracing, testing and vaccine navigation

The University of Utah contact tracing team was mobilized last year to track and contain the spread of COVID-19 within the campus community. Over the past 12 months, they have worked tirelessly to identify those at risk for spreading the virus and getting them to isolate and quarantine to reduce transmission rates. They’ve done an excellent job. We have seen case counts go down and.

But their work battling COVID-19 isn’t over. Now they are expanding their role into vaccination information and appointments. “They are becoming vaccination navigators,” said Sharon Talboys, Ph.D., MPH, contract tracing unit lead. “They are working as one resource helping people find appointments for the vaccine, and answering any questions they may have.”

Answering those questions is an extremely important aspect of the team’s work as the campus strives to reach herd immunity. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and dispelling those misconceptions is key to getting more people protected against the virus. The team is also finding that people are more likely to make a vaccination appointment if they are contacted directly rather than having to find the information themselves.

“Right now the team is focusing on the student population,” said Kimberly Shoaf of the Division of Public Health. “They are starting with those students who live on campus, but also will be reaching out to all students eligible for the vaccine.”

Contact tracing and vaccine assistance aren’t the only services being offered either. As we all know combating COVID-19 is a three-prong approach: tracing, vaccination and testing. The team is making sure all three are being utilized by reminding members of the campus community to get tested if they have symptoms, and maybe even when they don’t.

“Even if you are vaccinated you should be tested if you are coming to campus,” said Shoaf. “You can still get COVID, and you may not have any symptoms at all. This surveillance testing helps us track the spread of the disease and stop it.”

The contact tracing team has been key to combating COVID-19 on campus, allowing us to hopefully return soon to business as usual. We all have to do our part though. If you are contacted by a member of the team please work with them and take their recommendations. Those recommendations may include getting a vaccine, quarantining if you have been in contact with someone positive for the virus or signing up for an asymptomatic test.

“Following the directions of the contact tracers will help our community reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” said Tallboys. “And that’s a goal we can all appreciate and strive towards.”

For questions about contact tracing, vaccination and testing, call the U’s COVID-19 hotline at 801-213-2874.