Taking Contact Tracing Private

Taking Contact Tracing Private

An integral part of campus re-opening plans

Arguably, reopening the economy in many states across the country hinges on the ability for organizations to gain a good grasp on meeting COVID-safe practices. While some of this is rooted in securing facilities, engaging in more thorough sanitation practices or meeting state mandates for reopening, schools are facing an entirely new set of challenges.

In the last couple of months, schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame have closed down or shifted to remote learning amidst outbreaks, leaving school administrators with the task of assessing the risk and making crucial decisions about student health and safety. The fact remains that so many need to reopen in an effort to engage in the progression of learning for these students.

While state-level public health departments are tasked with contact tracing based on health data, more private organizations — like higher education campuses — are relying on private workplace exposure tracing to augment these efforts and strengthen their posture to the public. In an education environment, this is more important than ever.

Given that so many of these entities are adjusting to the changing landscape in real-time, there are a number of reasons why managed services providers (MSPs) are a good way to implement exposure tracing on a higher education campus

Boosting Manpower

One of the biggest adjustments for higher education campuses in the current landscape is the challenge of staffing amidst the backdrop of a pandemic. Weighing the safety and health of staff (and students) is a crucial part of a school’s goals, as many of them are operating with limited resources. That being said, using an MSP to provide exposure tracing brings a level of coverage not previously seen. Coupled with innovative tracing and communications technology, an MSP can scale to meet the needs of the organization quickly without sacrificing the important factor of time.

Another issue becomes the ability to meet the needs of the organization to source items like personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits. Using an MSP for workplace exposure tracing can help address this kind of challenge and boost the ability of these organizations to meet the demands for reopening.

Established Processes

MSPs have operated through emergency, real-life incidents on a regular basis and have a wealth of experience to draw from, including the experience that other organizations have had in addressing real-time threats. MSPs also understand that unusual situations can occur and work to mitigate those risks; can work to close accidental risk exposure; and may have the ability to implement the service more efficiently for school administrators.

Outsourcing exposure tracing brings the processes focus to the MSP to guide the implementation of standard operating procedures in line with the necessary rules set forth by the university. Additionally, using this kind of service can help these organizations meet privacy requirements instituted by state and federal officials. Ultimately, schools should be able to prove that the procedures that are in place to protect students do not violate privacy laws.

Streamlined Technology

There are so many challenges that can be solved by implementing the right kind of technology. When it comes to overall security, video surveillance, access control and fire/intrusion alarms are critical. However, the ability to strengthen exposure tracing isn’t exactly a technology investment that makes sense. However, the use of a service- based approach that is able to scale up or down as needed can address this concern about the long approval cycle of a capital expenditure.

MSPs that offer exposure tracing have identified technology vendors and often have agreements, and special licenses in place with those vendors to quickly and easily incorporate that technology into a university’s overall COVID-19 response plan, alongside internal protocols. They’re already trained on the solution, and the processes and operations behind them. This can save an organization valuable time and money versus implementing the technology themselves. The final benefit is that when operations return to near-normal levels, operations departments can re-evaluate the use of the service and adjust accordingly.

Focused Awareness

Parents understand there is a level of anxiety about sending kids back to school. For the parents of college-age kids, the fear is similar; however, the ability to receive communications about response protocols when an outbreak occurs can be a major benefit. In such a large organization like a university, when an infection occurs, administrators have to figure out and get in touch with a large number of people in a short span of time, disseminate important information and manage any ongoing infections (and their spread).

Outsourcing exposure tracing ensures that this level of mass communication can take place seamlessly as the need arises, in line with the SOPs put in place. This kind of focused awareness has the potential to allow universities to streamline messaging and ensure the parties involved know response protocols and can react accordingly. Without this step, the crucial element of communicating exposure cannot be realized.

Higher-education campuses are hot spots for outbreaks, and if these organizations want to head back to in-person classes sooner than later, having a plan in place to identify and communicate exposure will become a crucial part of the plans for re-opening. MSPs can scale services based on individual campus needs, leverage trained professionals, create more awareness and provide technology to maximize communication in an effort to meet these needs.

This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security Today.


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