Temple Contact Tracing Unit tracks increased COVID-19 cases

The contact tracing process is updated for vaccinated students who have close contact with a positive case.

Kara Reid, manager of the Contact Tracing Unit, stands outside of the Student and Employee Health Services building on Broad Street near Cecil B. Moore on Feb. 24. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University’s Contact Tracing Unit amended its contact tracing process for fully vaccinated students. If a fully vaccinated student comes into close contact with someone with COVID-19 and remains asymptomatic, they are not recommended to quarantine, said Kara Reid, manager of Temple’s Contact Tracing Unit. 

However, the unit still recommends getting tested two to three days after a close exposure. 

The unit has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases recently because of in-person classes, activities outside of classes, nice weather encouraging students to gather outdoors and Labor Day celebrations, Reid said. Despite having more students on campus than during the summer, the unit isn’t experiencing a surge and is able to monitor all cases, conduct interviews and provide guidance to infected individuals. 

There is no specific number that would indicate a surge, but it would consist of a “steep increase” in positivity rates and the number of positive cases, wrote Mark Denys, director of Student Health Services in an email to The Temple News. Temple has not seen either of these occur, Denys wrote.

In the first week of classes, there were 57 positive cases and a 1.67 percent positivity rate, in the second week of classes there were 79 positive cases and a 1.78 percent positivity rate. In the third week of school there were 55 positive cases and a 1.24 percent positivity rate, Denys wrote.

If students are not vaccinated and come into close contact with someone who tested positive, they will be monitored by contact tracers for their full quarantine period. 

A close contact is defined as being within six-feet of a COVID-19 positive person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The unit contacts and interviews any student that tests positive from a COVID-19 test administered on campus or uploads a positive test result from a test received off campus to the Patient Health Portal, Reid said. 

There are an estimated 68 active COVID-19 cases at Temple as of Sept. 13, according to Temple’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Seren Palacio, a junior biology major, was contacted on Sept. 9 about a classmate who tested positive. She received an email almost immediately after she attended the class she shares with that student, notifying her of the result and what she would have to do, Palacio said.

“Because I’m vaccinated, they basically said, like, I’m low risk, I don’t have to quarantine,” Palacio said. 

A tracer discusses the positive student’s medical history and symptoms, as well as where they may have been exposed to ensure the student has the treatment they need, Reid said. The unit then defines the person’s infectious period and tries to identify any close contacts they had during that time frame.

The unit had three full-time contact tracers, then they added another full-time tracer on Sept. 13 and may add two students that would help part-time, Reid said on Sept. 10. This is a decrease from the nine full-time contact tracers in the Spring 2021 semester.

Temple will continue to maintain a contact tracing team as long as COVID-19 is present, Reid said. 

“It’s going to get better,” Reid said. “The more people that we have vaccinated, the more protection that we just have for a general community.”

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