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Take the call: UCI contact tracing program launches

Section 1

September 30, 2020

One of the key components of UCI’s COVID-19 response program is contact tracing. Together with testing, wearing face coverings, washing hands, and maintaining physical distance, contact tracing provides the critical element to identify close contacts of people with COVID-19 to instruct them to quarantine to reduce further spread of COVID-19 in the community. UCI has entered into an agreement with the Orange County Health Care Agency to authorize UCI to conduct contact tracing specific to the UCI community. Campus leadership has supported this effort by issuing an executive directive

The UCI contact tracing program is fully operational as all students moving into campus housing were required to take a COVID-19 test prior to moving in. Regular testing of students will begin October 5 and information on Phase 3 (regular) testing will come out in a separate message from Student Affairs. Having an in-house contact tracing program for the UCI community provides an added level of data and mode to help control the spread on our campus. To learn about UCI’s contact tracing program, watch this episode of The Anteater Insider video podcast. 

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is reaching out to individual positive COVID-19 cases and close-contacts of cases to understand where exposures may have occurred, identify close contacts, and determine who needs to take particular action. This effort helps to track and contain the spread of COVID-19.

UCI’s trained contact tracing staff will be calling all UCI students, faculty and staff who are COVID-19 positive as well as their close contacts to interview them and provide isolation and quarantine instructions. The information gathered in the interviews helps identify and respond to clusters of cases. 

What happens if I test COVID-19 positive?

If you test positive for COVID-19, you should continue to seek healthcare with your healthcare provider. The contact tracer will call you to ask where you have been, where you think you may have been exposed and who you have been in close contact with. You will also receive instructions on self-isolation during recovery and assure you have the resources you need. 

What happens if I am a close contact? 

If you are called, it is because you were potentially exposed to COVID-19. The contact tracer will notify you the date of the exposure, provide you with instructions on what you need to do, and assure that you have the resources you need to be able to quarantine.

Information shared is confidential

We recognize that you may have reasons for not wanting to share where you’ve been and who you have been with. However, it is imperative to control the spread that you do your best to answer all the questions asked by the contact tracer. All information that is shared is kept confidential and is not used for any other purpose than to control the spread of COVID-19. 

Timing is crucial to controlling the spread

It is important to begin contact tracing as soon as possible after a positive case is identified. The approximate time between somebody becoming infected and somebody showing symptoms is about five days, and the amount of time that one can be infectious before symptoms, is about two days.  

Take the call

In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus, it will be crucial for students, staff, and faculty to “take the call” from the contact tracing program and be honest and complete in responding to the interview questions. If you are called by a contact tracer, the number that will appear on your phone is (949) 824-2300. Please take the call.

We’re all in this together, 

David M. Souleles, MPH

Director, COVID-19 Response Team