Students report varied contact tracing experiences

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Some students have expressed confusion about perceived disparities in their contact tracing experiences as Yale’s contact tracing team focuses on high-risk groups and areas of ongoing transmission.


Staff reporter


Regina Sung, photo editor

When a Yale student tests positive for COVID-19, one of the calls they can expect to receive is from Yale’s contact tracing team, but students have reported disparities in timing. – what if – the call comes.

Yale’s contact tracing guidance webpage, recently updated Feb. 23, says the University is now asking COVID-positive individuals to notify their own close contacts of potential exposure, allowing the University University to prioritize its contact tracing efforts in “areas of ongoing transmission.” and among our most at-risk groups. Previously, the Yale Contact Tracing Team, or YCTT, aimed to speak to all students who tested positive. In interviews with the News, some students expressed confusion about perceived disparities in contact tracing calling experiences.

“The questions are designed to identify key people, places and events that help the contact tracing team identify common sources of infection, clustering of cases and ultimately help prevent the spread. continuous transmission,” YCTT program manager Margaret Anderson wrote in an email. to the News. “The length of the interview will vary depending on the individuals’ responses and their activities during the retrospective period.”

According to Anderson, 94% of all members of the University community who tested positive during the week ending March 2 received interviews, indicating that the team remains an important part of the University’s efforts. to combat the spread of COVID-19 despite this policy change.

Contact tracing protocols do not differ depending on whether an undergraduate student lives on campus or not, Anderson said. People who test positive at home – or before they arrive on campus, as some did at the start of the semester – do not receive contact tracing interviews because YCTT is a program based on the campus. She clarified that if someone spent time on campus during their contagious period, they would still receive an interview.

In a February 25 community-wide email, University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler shared data from the contact tracing team’s interview results.

According to the graph shared by Spangler, the contact tracing team conducted 795 student interviews between February 4 and February 24. Of these, 31% of cases were linked to “off-campus unmasked gatherings or parties” as the most likely source of infection. The second most likely source of infection was more than an hour of unmasked contact within one meter of a COVID-positive individual, to which 17% of cases were linked.

In interviews with the News, students described a range of experiences with contact tracing after testing positive.

Riley Meeks ’23 told the News that when she received her contact tracing call, the scope of questioning included “literally every detail” about her activities in the two weeks before she tested positive. She said she was asked if she had eaten in the dining room with friends or if she had been without a mask within six feet of anyone else in the previous two weeks, in addition to the specific meal dates and times.

The schedule of activities she was asked about confused her, Meeks said. She was under the impression that the events 14 days before her positive test would have “no relation to why [she] was actually positive.

Yale’s contact tracing guidance webpage says employees who test positive will be asked about people who may have been close contacts during their infectious period, which the site defines as two days before the onset of the infections. symptoms or two days before the date of the positive test if they are asymptomatic. The site does not specify whether this definition also applies to students.

Meeks’ contact tracing call ultimately lasted 40 minutes, she said, and she described the experience as “frustrating.” She said she simultaneously knew other isolated COVID-positive students whose calls only lasted five minutes, and still others who never received a call at all.

Several undergraduate students have confirmed that they never received a contact tracing call after testing positive. Anderson did not respond to questions about those accounts.

From Meeks’ perspective, she said, it seemed like staff members making contact tracing calls weren’t operating with a standardized set of guidelines. She acknowledged that the volume of students testing positive around the same time was likely “overwhelmed[ing]for the contact tracing team. Still, she said, it was like “they just picked who they wanted to talk to.”

Anderson told the News that the contact tracing interviews follow a script that includes both “standardized case investigation questions” and public health guidance.

Simona Hausleitner ’25 said in an interview with The News that her contact tracing call lasted between 15 and 20 minutes. He was asked general questions about his “moving around campus” in the week before he tested positive, Hausleitner said.

By contrast, Hausleitner said, her roommate in isolated housing — with whom she also shares a double room on campus — was questioned in much more detail and her call lasted 30 minutes.

“When people on the phone immediately mention one of the biggest social gatherings…I think they ask fewer questions because they assume that’s where you got it from,” Hausleitner said. .

Anderson noted that COVID-19 cases continue to be “most often associated” with gatherings where attendees are outed.

Anderson told the News that the YCTT first tries to reach COVID-positive people by phone. For calls that aren’t answered, she said, the team follows up with voicemail and email notification to try to reach them. If there is no response, the team alerts the dean or person’s health and safety officer for assistance in making contact.

Conrad Lee ’25 told The News that the contact tracing team first contacted him a full day after receiving his positive test result. He missed the initial call, Lee said, and was sent to voicemail when he called back five minutes later. The following day – 48 hours after his positive test – he received another call from the contact tracing team, which he answered. Lee said the conversation lasted about 10 minutes and mostly consisted of him confirming the names of his suitemates to the contact tracer.

“I had a reasonable experience with the contact tracing team, but I feel like they reached me with instructions a bit late,” Lee said.

Sixty-five undergraduate students tested positive in the seven-day period ending March 6, according to the University’s COVID-19 data dashboard.




OLIVIA TUKER




Olivia Tucker covers politics and student affairs. Previously, she was associate editor of Yale Daily News magazine and covered gender equity and diversity as a reporter. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a sophomore at Davenport College majoring in English.

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