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Student Emergency Responders Become Contact Tracers in Fight Against COVID-19

One of the most effective ways to curtail the spread of COVID-19 is contact tracing — ascertaining the identity of those who may have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

Cara Moore ’21 and several other members of Vassar College Emergency Medical Services (VCEMS) are serving as contact tracers to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the campus and in the community.

That’s why Cara Moore ’21 and some of her fellow members of Vassar College Emergency Medical Services (VCEMS) have joined the contact tracing team run by government health officials in the Poughkeepsie area. “If we’re able to track down this information, we can make an incredible difference in stopping the spread of the virus,” said Moore, a biology major from New York City and a volunteer with the Dutchess County Medical Reserve Corps. She said the group’s tasks include working with Vassar health officials to conduct contact tracing on the campus.

Moore and several other VCEMS members qualified as contact tracers by taking an online course offered by Johns Hopkins Medical School. The course provides instruction on:

  • Reaching out to the contacts of those diagnosed with COVID-19, without revealing the identity of the infected individual;
  • Inquiring about contacts’ COVID-19 symptoms and healthcare access;
  • Monitoring contacts’ symptoms throughout their quarantine period;
  • Referring contacts to testing, if necessary;
  • Providing instructions for quarantine and ensuring compliance with quarantine orders;
  • Determining contacts’ social support needs and connecting them to the appropriate social service assistance programs.

Dutchess County government spokesperson Colleen Pillus said Moore and her fellow students were playing a vital role in combating the spread of the virus in the region. “Vassar College’s student effort in COVID-19 prevention and mitigation is impressive,” Pillus said. “Cara Moore epitomizes that dedication, going above and beyond to organize a team of fellow students.”

Dr. Anil Vaidian, Dutchess County Commissioner of Behavioral and Community Health, said it is important to have younger people serving as contact tracers. “Too often, young adults who test positive are unwilling to share information about their contacts or do not take the virus seriously,” Dr. Vaidian said. “However, when a fellow student is the initial contact tracer, the message is better received and there is greater willingness to be transparent about where the exposed individual may have been and who they have been in contact with. We applaud all of the Vassar College students who are working closely with the College’s excellent medical team to keep their campus and community healthy and safe.”