University Invests in Professional Contact Tracers and Wastewater Testing

October 07, 2020
Wastewater Testing
Wastewater testing can pinpoint a rise in infections before positive tests occur.

Like all higher ed institutions, the University of Hartford is focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19. But along with the typical, important health and safety precautions, the University has two additional tools that differ from those of our peers: professional contact tracers and wastewater testing.

Professional Contact Tracing

A robust contact tracing program is critical to stopping COVID-19. Contract tracers alert those who may have been exposed to the virus so that they self-quarantine for 14 days, monitor their health for any symptoms, and avoid passing the virus to others.

While many colleges and universities rely on students or staff, UHart hired 14 registered nurses to do the job. They work seven days a week to quickly identify close contacts of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19. (Close contacts are defined as anyone who has been within six feet, for 15 minutes or longer, with someone who is a confirmed or presumed case.) They also use their medical expertise to answer questions, assess concerns, refer for testing, and monitor symptoms.

Wastewater Testing

The University is also using wastewater testing, an unusual precaution among other schools. Research shows that the virus’s genetic signature can be detected in wastewater, which can indicate the prevalence of COVID-19 within a community. Another benefit is that it can pinpoint a rise in infections before positive tests occur. This allows healthcare staff to take preventative, strategic measures against a potential spike in cases, such as testing students or employees in impacted buildings and isolating those who are positive.

“This information could prove valuable in mitigating the spread of the virus and/or to ensure communities and healthcare facilities have the resources ready to respond,” explains Mike Fuller, COO of Pace Environmental Sciences, the University’s testing partner.

Mike Fuller, COO, Pace Environmental Sciences

Other Health and Safety Measures

The University is testing between 5 and 10% of our residential students for asymptomatic testing, as well as offering tests for those students who report symptoms to Health Services. Beginning the week of September 21, we are doubling that effort. Everyone coming to campus, or going to class if they live off campus, must complete a daily health screening using our LiveSafe app. Face coverings and social distancing are required, and personal hygiene is encouraged. We have also consulted with an environmental health and safety firm and contracted with additional cleaning crews to provide around-the-clock sanitizing in academic and residential common spaces.

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