Here’s how contact tracing will work at SUNY New Paltz in fall 2021

In the 2020-21 academic year, many SUNY New Paltz staff members worked quickly to shift their day-to-day duties and help establish a robust and effective contact tracing system as part of the College’s COVID-19 management.

That contact tracing process remains in place for fall 2021, with some new efficiencies in place based on things we’ve learned over the past year-plus, and the updated guidance for populations where a majority of individuals are vaccinated.


Contact Tracing Staff

Sarah Swift ’20 (Digital Media Management) will assume a new role as Contact Tracing Coordinator and help lead a team of tracers on a rotating schedule that includes night and weekend hours. Swift was a key contributor to our COVID-19 response last year, supporting both contact tracing efforts and the campus testing center.

Swift received extensive training from Allison Lindsay and Bryan Lurie, who helped lead tracing efforts last year and will return to their primary roles as athletic trainers in the Department of Athletics, Wellness & Recreation this fall.

All contact tracing efforts will continue to be overseen by Dr. Jack Ordway, director of the Student Health Service.


Who We Contact, and When

The SUNY New Paltz contact tracing process begins when the Student Health Service is notified that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, either through on- or off-campus testing.

Contact tracing of employees who test positive is conducted by the Ulster County Department of Health (or the relevant agency in their county of residence).

Student Health Service does the initial outreach, directing COVID-19-positive students to isolate. Awosting Hall remains available for use as a student quarantine/isolation space this fall.

Next, a member of the campus contact tracing team interviews the student about any close contacts (defined as contacts within six feet for 10 minutes or more) that occurred within 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms or the positive test result.

Contact tracers then begin reaching out to each identified close contact. These individuals are notified of the possible exposure and are asked about their symptoms, vaccination status, and whether they have been tested recently.


Directives and Recommendations Are Given Based on Vaccination Status

Close contacts who have not been vaccinated will be directed into quarantine. This is consistent with practices in the 2020-21 academic year.

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms will not be directed into quarantine. These individuals will be advised to mask, practice social distancing, limit physical interaction with others, monitor any symptoms, and get a COVID-19 test three to five days after the known exposure.

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated and are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be advised to isolate and get a COVID-19 test (students in this situation can schedule a test with the Student Health Service by calling 845-257-3400).


Agencies That Receive Information from Our Contact Tracers

Information about positive cases and contacts in our community is shared with New York State and the Ulster County Department of Health. This includes information about students who have been directed into quarantine or isolation.

SUNY New Paltz contact tracers do not share personal or private information, tests results, or vaccinations statuses with other students, faculty, staff, or the general public.


One Last Note for Faculty: Please Use Seating Charts to Support Effective Contact Tracing

Our contact tracing team is recommending that the College use a seating chart in every classroom this fall, which will help ensure effective and efficient tracing in the event of a confirmed case. We ask that faculty make use of seating charts and assigned seating to the extent possible to support our contact tracers and minimize disruption to your class should the need for contact tracing arise. This is a practice in place in many colleges and universities across the country.

We recognize this request may place a burden on faculty and students who are not accustomed to using seating charts and assigned seating. The College has resources available to support this process and provide flexibility for faculty to create seating charts that work for their instructional settings.

There are many simple, free seating chart templates available online that can work for many New Paltz classrooms. Here’s one we found easy to use.

For larger rooms and lecture halls, our Office of Emergency Management team is finalizing updated charts and we will share those with faculty as soon as they are available.


More information about COVID-19 policies and protocols at the College is available at our New Paltz Forward website.