LITTLE ROCK, Ark — UAMS locations in central and northwest Arkansas have been authorized by the Arkansas Department of Health to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing for public and private colleges and universities in Arkansas.
“Our goal is to protect the students and employees on each of these campuses,” said Jay Gandy, Ph.D., associate provost and project lead for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus. “This group effort will allow us to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic among the higher education institutions in Arkansas.”
Contact tracing is how experts track the spread of an infectious disease.
Once a person is confirmed to have COVID-19, they must self-isolate. Public health officials ask them who they may have exposed to the virus, then those people are contacted and asked to quarantine themselves to stop further spread.
The effort is supported by $5 million in federal coronavirus aid.
Two contact tracing centers are in the works of being established; one in central Arkansas and one in northwest Arkansas.
“As colleges begin going back to school in August, we want to change the norms and behaviors of these students,” said Ben Amick, Ph.D., associate dean for research and project lead for the College of Public Health. “That will be the only way to ensure that students are following social distancing practices, wearing masks, and taking other COVID-19 precautions.”
The college has developed a website for resources, materials and best practices. Also, UAMS, Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas Department of Higher Education officials are working closely with each institution to ensure their preparedness plans are in place and proper precautions are taken if a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19.