Loyola Hires Contact Tracers, Extra Nurses to Help With COVID-19

Courtesy of Loyola University ChicagoLoyola is gearing up to battle COVID-19, including offering free testing for students and contact tracing.

While most students have been preparing for the start of the semester by ordering textbooks and fixing irregular sleep schedules, Loyola’s Wellness Center has undergone major changes to deal with COVID-19, including hiring contact tracers and extra staff to help with testing. 

In an Aug. 16 webinar, Loyola Wellness Center Director Joan Holden said testing will be available at “satellite clinics” at the Water Tower Campus (WTC), Lake Shore Campus (LSC) and Health Sciences Campus in Maywood. Testing at both the LSC clinic (6576 N. Sheridan Rd.) and WTC clinic (871 N. Wabash Ave.) started Aug. 24, Holden said in an email to The Phoenix. 

These spaces, built specifically for COVID-19 testing, are smaller and offer free testing for Loyola students who are presenting with COVID-like symptoms, Holden said. In addition to antigen-based testing — which offers results within 15 minutes — they also offer polymerase-chain reaction (PCR) tests that take around 24 hours for results. 

Antigen testing is faster and cheaper, but less “sensitive” than PCR tests — though positive results from antigen tests are still very accurate, according to Holden. Students who test negative for the virus will receive the PCR test to confirm it, Holden said. 

Holden said the PCR tests — which are contracted through a separate laboratory — aren’t free and students need to remember to bring health insurance information with them when they get tested. Holden said the test costs a little more than $100 and the laboratory will bill insurance. 

Loyola is also implementing targeted testing — weekly testing of a group of “asymptomatic faculty, staff and students whom [Loyola] consider[s] to be higher risk,” Holden said. Those included in targeted testing were determined in coordination with Loyola’s Parkinson School of Public Health, she said. 

Holden said the group — close to 400 people — were chosen “based on principles of public health.”

Targeted testing will take place on the first floor of Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES), Holden said. Testing will be conducted in separate units, spaced out six feet apart, per guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she said. 

Holden said to help with the testing process, the Wellness Center hired six extra nurses and a team of contact tracers. 

Contact tracing is a process adopted by health officials to eliminate the spread of an infectious disease such as COVID-19. The process includes working with individuals who have contracted a disease and identifying people they have come in contact with in order to stop the spread. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the CDC requires all students isolate for at least 10 days since the first sign of symptoms, Holden said. If not tested by the Loyola Wellness Center, students — either at home or living in Chicago —  are encouraged to report positive cases to Loyola as soon as possible.

Next, students will be contacted within 24 hours by a contact tracer to discuss people they’ve come in contact with. The contact tracer will then reach out to those individuals — keeping the infected individual’s name confidential — and let them know if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and advise them to be aware of symptoms.

Holden advised students who are living off-campus who begin to show symptoms should contact Dial-a-Nurse and report their symptoms. Students calling Dial-a-Nurse must leave their name and phone number to receive a call back. 

In addition to Dial-a-Nurse, Loyola is also providing students living in Illinois both mental and medical telehealth providers via the Wellness Center, Holden said. 

The Wellness Center rolled out an app to self-assess symptoms of COVID-19 available on the app store or through Loyola’s website. Students sign in with their Loyola credentials and are asked a series of questions to determine if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. 

Depending on the answer, the user will receive a red, yellow or green response and whether testing is recommended, according to the website. 

Holden also stressed the possibility of dual infection with influenza and COVID-19, citing the approaching flu-season that usually hits in the fall and winter, according to the CDC website

She emphasized the importance of continuing to get vaccinated for the flu — free vaccinations will be available late in the semester by the Wellness Center like usual. 

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