Wright State University students providing COVID-19 contact tracing support to local health departments

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A team of Wright State University students are providing contact tracing support to health departments in the Miami Valley.

Several health departments reached out to Wright State, starting over the summer, and now they have a team of more than 50 students spending at least 350 hours a week contact tracing.

Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine Master of Public Health program and several other departments on campus are providing students for the contact tracing teams.

As of now, students help Preble, Champaign and Butler counties by calling residents that tests positive for COVID-19.

“It could be the first time that they’re hearing they have COVID, so really just explaining to them the situation directly, but with empathy, and connecting them with the resources they may need,” training supervisor Leah Elliott said.

Each morning students on shift recieve a list of positive cases then they begin making calls, asking questions to find out where the person has been and who they’ve seen.

“In order to do that, we need everyone to be transparent when it comes to us so we’re able to provide them and other people the information they may need to stay safe,” contact tracer Hamza Sultan said.

From the answers they receive, the contact tracers will call everyone who came in direct contact with the positive COVID-19 person. Then everyone will be notified to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“By staying home, by isolating and ensuring you’re not coming in contact with other people, you’re stopping the virus,” lead shift supervisor Natalie Hicks said.

The program’s been running since September, and as coronavirus cases rise across the state, they also are seeing more cases coming in.

“We’re also seeing an increase in the contacts that we’re getting because those cases have been around more people, so we have seen a little bit of a spike, but it’s nothing our team has not been able to handle,” shift supervisor Whitney Jenkins said.

Which is a relief to the health departments they serve.

“It takes a huge weight off our shoulders, otherwise it may cause us to get further backed up, and ultimately delay the time to inform someone they may have been a contact” Preble County Health Commissioner Erik Balster said.

The contact tracer program is in the process of expanding to other counties.

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