Faculty News

Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani on U-M Contact Tracing and COVID-19 Dashboard

University of Michigan leadership and public health officials examined plans for a successful fall semester and identified several components vital to the decision-making process. Among the most integral was the U-M public health infrastructure and its capacity to quickly conduct case investigations and contact tracing.

The strong partnership between U-M public health officials and the Washtenaw County Health Department provides unique opportunities to enhance the monitoring efforts in the Ann Arbor area. Since COVID-19 is a reportable infection, case investigations and contact tracing are important parts of the monitoring strategy to maintain the health of the entire U-M community.

Should a U-M student, faculty, or staff member experience symptoms or be identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive, testing is available through the University Health System. Such testing also instantaneously begins a case investigation which allows public health officials to quickly communicate situational awareness for the entire campus community. UHS staff answers phone

Through the contact tracing process, those identified as close contacts will be expected to quarantine,  regardless of a negative test result, to ensure they don’t develop symptoms or unknowingly spread the virus to others.  

“If you have a positive test, it’s essential that you cooperate with case investigation and contact tracing,” said Preeti Malani, chief health officer, U-M. “Please answer your phone, and be honest. The health of our community depends on this.” 

COVID-19 testing can also be conducted at outside facilities, but this can cause delays in U-M receiving test results, making  it more difficult to provide members of the U-M community with the support they need. 

U-M shares updates on its testing and positive cases through the COVID-19 dashboard, which is updated daily. Starting September 23, cases reported for members of the U-M community at external testing facilities (such as urgent care facilities) were also added to the dashboard and will continue to be updated as data becomes available. Given that there is a longer turn-around   for external sites in  providing  testing data to U-M, it may appear as though there have been jumps in cases in a short period of time. This should not be cause for alarm, however, and  is just one more reason students should seek testing through UHS.

“The team at the University Health Service is ready to take care of you seven days a week,” Malani said. “If you need to be tested, I strongly encourage you to go to UHS. The team there has had a lot of experience taking care of students with COVID and they can connect you to all of the resources that you need.” 

UHS testing is also available to U-M faculty and staff who are experiencing symptoms or who have been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive. UHS testing in lab

One of the best mitigation practices is keeping a safe distance from others, but Malani wants to ensure students know that physical distancing doesn’t mean staying in a room all day. “COVID is not the only risk to our health; I worry a lot about loneliness when isolated. So, get outside. Go for a walk. Wear your mask, and take care of yourself and others,” she said. 

The University of Michigan and the Washtenaw County Health Department continue to work collaboratively to monitor the health of the U-M community and adapt strategies as necessary. Learn more about the commitment to transparency and a culture of care at campusblueprint.umich.edu.