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New Grad Earns Community Service Citation for Helping to Fight COVID-19

When Cara Moore ’21 mobilized fellow members of the Vassar College Emergency Medical Services (VCEMS) last year to help local public health authorities conduct COVID-19 contact tracing at the College and in the community, she never expected to be formally recognized for her work. But the day before she graduated, Moore heard her name called by President Elizabeth H. Bradley at Vassar’s annual awards ceremony.

Cara Moore ’21 receives a copy of a Dutchess County Proclamation from President Elizabeth H. Bradley.Photo: Karl Rabe

Bradley had a surprise for Moore: She read a proclamation of appreciation from Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, thanking Moore and her colleagues for all they had done to keep the campus and the community safe. “Cara has a tremendous understanding of the disease and the mitigation strategies through her volunteer experiences,” the proclamation read, in part. “Now therefore I, Marcus J. Molinaro, County Executive of Dutchess County, with great appreciation, applaud you for your many dedicated services and accomplishments in the Dutchess County community….”

Moore, a biology major from New York City, plans to attend medical school as well as pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health She said she was humbled to have received such recognition but added that she was just one of many Vassar students and community volunteers who had teamed up to fight the spread of the virus. “I view this as a reflection of the collaboration and hard work so many people contributed,” she said. “This isn’t just an individual award, it’s about the total effort, without which we would not have had the success we had.”

Moore said conducting contact tracing—identifying people who had had close contact with someone testing positive for the virus—was challenging but rewarding work. She organized the effort on campus after taking an online course on contact tracing created by Johns Hopkins University, then enlisted about a dozen other members of VCEMS to join her. Earlier this year, when vaccines became available, Moore and other VCEMS members served as volunteers at vaccination centers. “My plan was finding a way to get students involved in helping to control the virus while also gaining some valuable clinical insight into epidemiology and disease control,” she said.

She said the real reward for her work was watching the number of cases remain low at Vassar while seeing them decline in other regions of the county. “The low numbers on the Vassar ‘dashboard’ were a tribute to how well the students were adhering to social distancing and other guidelines,” she said. “Everyone was compliant when we had to issue isolation orders” after evidence of potentially dangerous contact had been established.

Moore said she was especially pleased that it was President Bradley who had presented her with the proclamation at the awards ceremony. “That had a special meaning to me,” she said, “because she was so instrumental in allowing us to take part in the program. Without that support, our program would not have had such success.”