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FAQs - Contact Tracing
The purpose of contact tracing is to identify and notify in a timely manner close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 and to educate those contacts on quarantine instructions, symptom monitoring, and steps to take if they become symptomatic. When an individual who is within the university’s testing protocols receives a positive test result, that result initiates the university’s contact tracing process.
Please find here some of the most frequently asked questions—and answers—about contact tracing at Tufts.
How is “close contact” defined?
Congruent with updated state and CDC definition of a close contact of a COVID-19 case, a close contact is defined as someone who:
- is within six feet of a positive COVID-19 person/case for 15 minutes or more while indoors over the course of a 24-hour period, starting two days before the onset of illness and while the case is symptomatic; or
- is within six feet of a positive COVID-19 person/case for 15 minutes or more while indoors during the 48 hours before their test was taken or anytime in the 10 days after the test; or
- provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19; or
- Had direct physical contact with (touched, hugged, or kissed) a positive COVID-19 person; or
- shared food, or eating or drinking utensils with a positive COVID-19 person; or
- was sneezed or coughed on by a positive COVID-19 person, transmitting respiratory droplets to them.
In all cases, the decision to quarantine is a clinical decision made by a Tufts clinician in collaboration with the university’s contract tracing team and the local boards of health. Any student, faculty, or staff member instructed to quarantine is expected to fully cooperate with the contact tracing process and strictly adhere to all instructions.
What constitutes exposure to an infected individual?
Current guidance for exposure includes being within six feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 15 minutes or more while indoors over a 24-hour period, starting two days before the onset of illness and while the case is symptomatic. Passing someone in a hallway or being in the same building with an infected individual does NOT constitute exposure. More information about exposure and close contacts is available in the Testing at Tufts resource.
How do I know if I have been exposed to someone in the Tufts community who tested positive for COVID-19?
Tufts University is partnering with the Broad Institute to administer routine and exposure/symptom-based testing of students, faculty, and student-facing staff for the COVID-19 virus. When they receive a positive test result, Broad will contact the local board of health and Tufts Health Service to notify students or Marathon Health to notify faculty and staff who have tested positive.
This will also initiate the contact tracing process with Marathon Health. Marathon Health will record the date of symptom onset and gather a list of close contacts within the Tufts community starting 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. Marathon Health will then notify all close Tufts contacts.
More information about contact tracing is available in the Testing at Tufts resource.
Can I opt out of the contact tracing program?
You cannot opt out of the contact tracing program. The program is essential to control the spread of the virus. You will not be identified during the process in which those individuals with whom you have had close contact are notified about their having had close contact with someone who has tested positive. Your medical information will be held in confidence in accordance with HIPAA regulations and best practices. More information about contact tracing is available in the Testing at Tufts resource.
Where will my confidential information be stored?
This information varies by campus. Please visit the Testing at Tufts resource for the specifics about where an individual’s information will be securely stored.
If my positive test result initiates contact tracing, will my identity remain confidential?
During contact tracing, your identity will remain confidential. Those identified through contact tracing as needing to be notified will not be given your name. More information about contact tracing is available in the Testing at Tufts resource.
I am working remotely. Am I likely to be part of the university’s contact tracing processes?
If you are working remotely, you are not likely to be part of contact tracing from Tufts. Tufts will only be contact tracing for positive cases that are exposed by Tufts testing program, or for individuals who have outside tests and those working on campus who receive positive test results from another source.
What would happen if a student were to test positive (and fully recover) within 90 days of arrival to campus? If they tested positive while on campus, would they be required to isolate and perform contract tracing?
Students who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 or been diagnosed with COVID-19 within 90 days prior to their arrival to campus should contact the Health Service, for a review of their laboratory report and medical documentation supporting the fact that a healthcare professional cleared them from isolation. In that case, these students would not be required to isolate again. Health Service would then advise them when they should re-enter the testing program based on the date of their diagnosis.
Can I opt out of the contact tracing program?
You may not opt out of the contact tracing program. The program is essential to control the spread of the virus. You will not be identified during the process in which those individuals with whom you have had close contact are notified about their having had close contact with someone who has tested positive. Your medical information will be held in confidence in accordance with HIPAA regulations and best practices.
I am a neighbor of Tufts University. What happens if a Tufts student living in my neighborhood becomes infected with COVID-19?
Through its contact tracing program in partnership with the Jumbo Health Center, Tufts quickly identifies anyone, including students, who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive and ensures that they are notified and told to self-quarantine for the required 14 days.
Students who have tested positive are directed to isolate. Those who live on-campus and test positive move to specialty isolation housing. Those who live off-campus are strongly encouraged to do so at the isolation units on the Tufts campus, where they will be monitored by a clinician. If they isolate off-campus, Tufts provides the resources they need during their recovery so they can remain safely in their residence. Students in isolation are not permitted to leave until they have medical clearance. The identity of anyone who tests positive will remain confidential to protect their privacy as well as those who may have been in close contact with them.
It is worth remembering that people can get COVID-19 without doing anything wrong and being in quarantine or isolation does not imply that an individual was irresponsible or violated any rules.