During the course of the pandemic, a new job opportunity for athletic trainers at SUNY New Paltz popped up: contact tracing for COVID-19.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have come in contact with an infected person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contact tracing is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 by informing those who may have been exposed to get tested, and asking those who have been in close contact to self-isolate.
At SUNY New Paltz, the athletic training staff is doing contact tracing for students this semester. Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who take care of the sports medicine needs of the varsity athletes. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, under normal circumstances, “athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions.” This year, however, athletic trainers at New Paltz are taking their duties a step further.
While the role of student Athletic & Wellness Center (AWC) employees is to keep a log of who visited the gym and confirm that those entering have completed their daily health screenings, the athletic training staff is working with Student Health Services and the Ulster County Department of Health to do the tracing.
Allison Lindsay, associate athletic trainer at SUNY New Paltz, explained that the training staff is working with those departments to do contact tracing for any New Paltz student who ends up positive with COVID-19, not just those who have visited the AWC. The staff is tracing student cases across all of campus and if other students do end up in close contact with someone who tested positive, the athletic training staff would then contact them with information and details about quarantine.
“Once Student Health Services or the Ulster County Dept. of Health is made aware of a new case who is a student, we start [the] process of contacting the individual affected and whoever they may have come into contact with during a certain period of time,” Lindsay said. “We make sure individuals have the information and resources they will need to successfully quarantine for the appropriate amount of time.”
Lindsay also added that the athletic trainers will follow up with students who are in quarantine to make sure they are doing well.
“Any day depends on if a new case is reported, and how many people they were in close contact with,” Lindsay said. “Some days we call many people, while some days we only call the people we need to check on.”
The athletic trainers were all trained before taking on the new responsibilities. Lindsay explained that everyone on the contact tracing team completed an online contact tracing course created by Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, they were trained in local state and county protocols by the Ulster County Department of Health.
Since contact tracing is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19, it is significant that SUNY New Paltz has trained contact tracers to alert students who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and support students in quarantine. Hopefully, with the help of our athletic trainers, we will all have a nice, safe and healthy fall semester at SUNY New Paltz.