ICAP and Columbia Health have jointly developed and launched a contact tracing program to quickly identify, contain, and suppress transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in the Columbia University community in New York City. Working across the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center campuses, the newly launched contact tracing program is an essential component of extensive safety measures recently enacted by Columbia University to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as students, faculty and staff return to campus.
Contact tracing is a time-tested public health strategy to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and this program is designed to allow the Columbia community to continue to deliver world-class programs in education, research, and clinical practice.
“Anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 is at increased risk of becoming infected themselves and passing that infection on to others, even if they are not displaying symptoms,” explained Susan Michaels-Strasser, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, ICAP’s senior director of human resources for health unit. “Contact tracing can help prevent further spread of the virus by rapidly identifying and reaching out to people who may have been exposed to the virus to provide them with steps that they can take to protect themselves and others around them from COVID-19 infection.”
Supervised by public health professionals and clinicians at Columbia Health and ICAP, contact tracers follow stringent guidelines from the university, New York City, and New York State to recommend a period of quarantine for those exposed and a period of isolation for those who test positive for COVID-19. Additionally, contact tracers play a key role in supporting successful quarantine and isolation by providing frequent check-ins for those affected, as well linkage to other resources including psychosocial support, meals, and clinical care.
“Columbia Health, the CUIMC Student Health Service, and ICAP have strong health programs for students, faculty, staff, and the wider community—and, as we continue to work to keep the greater community healthy and gradually resume campus life, doing even more will be critical,” said Raphael Coleman, PhD, MPH, director of Alice! Health! Promotion at Columbia Health. “While this academic year looks very different, measures such as the contact tracing program allow us to continue the long and vibrant tradition of educational excellence and service to our community.”