Not in touch with contact tracing

University struggling to provide adequate contact tracing

Graphic by: Sienna Parmelee | Production Assistant

Since the beginning of the fall semester the Ferris COVID-19 Dashboard has shown 10-30 active cases each day. While COVID-19 cases in Mecosta County have seen a spike since classes began at the end of August.

According to Director of Health Services at Birkam, Lindsay Barber, Ferris Daily Symptom Checker has seen a 35% decrease in faculty and staff usage and 65% decrease in student usage. 

Of the individuals using the daily checker there have been reports of positive cases as well as individuals who are symptomatic being flagged in the system but not being contacted regarding the contact tracing guidelines laid out by the university. 

Dean of Student Life, Joy Pulsifer explained the contact tracing protocol in place at Ferris that is based off the CDC guidelines.  

“Birkam’s COVID-19 case manager performs an intensive interview with the student (HR completes contact tracing with employees) and identifies any close contacts. When those contacts are identified, and if they are associated with campus (e.g. a student, faculty, or a staff member), the case manager will connect with the close contacts via email and share quarantine protocol if they are not vaccinated (quarantining is not required for those who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic),” Pulsifer wrote in an email.  

A Ferris professor was showing potential COVID-19 symptoms, and she used the symptom checker which flagged her as a possible positive but contact tracing was never completed.  

“I used the Ferris symptom checker. It alerted as a contact exposure, but no one followed up with me,” the professor wrote via email.  

After COVID-19 testing the professor was found to be negative but still had symptoms. Barber explained that anyone who is symptomatic and tests negative is told to isolate until their symptoms resolve.  

“(It was) disappointing, I expected SOME contact tracing from the University to occur,” the professor wrote via email. 

A third-year student in the social work program had a comparable situation when he tested positive for COVID-19 via a test on campus. He explained that upon receiving the positive test he was contacted and told isolation protocols and they asked if he knew who he exposed, to which he answered yes.  

“They didn’t ask for anybody’s information or contact information (after saying who was exposed),” the student said.  

The student further added that the person who called him asked that he inform his suite mate of the situation, rather than getting the suite mates information and making contact themselves. 

“To help slow the spread on campus, Birkam Health Center continues to monitor all reported cases, and engages in case management and contact tracing activities. Contact tracing is performed following guidance from the CDC and local health authorities,” Barber said.  

Some individuals have experienced contact tracing for positive tests or when symptomatic, while others have been left alone to go through COVID-19 or potential symptoms. 

If you have experienced similar issues regarding the Daily Symptom Checker and contact tracing do not hesitate to reach out to the Torch to share your experiences.