UCI News

UCI Podcast: Testing and tracing

How student testing and the campus contact tracing program helps control the spread at UCI

November 6, 2020
UCI Podcast: Testing and tracing
Albert Chang, MD, medical director for UCI Student Health Center. Photo by Steven Georges/UCI

With a student resident population of 7,000 for Fall Quarter, UCI embarked on an ambitious combined effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus on campus: weekly asymptomatic testing for resident students, and a contact tracing program unique to the UCI community. Dr. Albert Chang, the medical director of the UCI Student Health Center; and David Souleles, the director of UCI’s COVID-19 Response Team, join the UCI Podcast to discuss these two programs and how the two initiatives work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Transcript

SHERI LEDBETTER – HOST (00:02):

man's face

David Souleles, Director of UCI COVID-19 Response Team

From the University of California, Irvine, this is the UCI podcast. I’m Sheri Ledbetter. Thank you for joining me for this episode. We’re going to talk about the current campus environment at UCI and look specifically at the student testing and also the contact tracing program and how these two programs work together to help control the spread of COVID-19. Joining me today are the two individuals heading up these comprehensive initiatives, Dr. Albert Chang, the medical director of the UCI student health center. And David Souleles the director of UCI COVID-19 response team. Welcome. Let’s start with some background on both of these programs to lay the groundwork. So we currently have approximately 7,000 students living in campus housing, and we’re now about midway through the fall quarter. Dr. Chang, tell us about the testing process when it began, how often students tests and, how it’s been going.

DR.ALBERT CHANG (01:05):

Sure. Sheri. So, and just to kind of clarify, since the very beginning of all of, all of this back in January, February, we’ve been doing testing from the start, but there’s a difference between symptomatic testing and asymptomatic testing. So we’ve been testing those students with symptoms. What we’ve started over the summer is what’s called an asymptomatic testing process. So, you’re testing students and individuals that have no symptoms because we’ve noticed that sometimes someone can be carrying the virus, but not having symptoms and potentially spreading it to others. Our decision to bring students back on campus was a very important one. And we wanted to ensure that we did everything that we could to ensure the safety and health of these students coming back on and the staff that are around. So starting in September, we broke it down into three phases.

  1. CHANG (01:57):

Phase one was the testing of those residents that were already on campus, about 3000 students – graduate students, mostly and some undergraduates, as well. And so we did that out of two separate testing sites through a self-collected nasal swab. When students check into a site they’re brought to an observation area – five students at a time with one observer. We’ve had them spaced out. We have partitions in between safely collecting these samples. The samples are dropped off at our testing center. And our goal is to get the turnaround within 24 to 48 hours. In this way, we can assure that the students that are were on campus through the summer are being tested and identifying those that were positive. So that was phase one, phase two was moving week and we had around another 4,000 students come on campus through that week.

  1. CHANG (02:56):

We had all students that were moving in come and get tested prior to even picking up their keys. So we were very successful with that process and because of the volume, we expanded to four separate sites that was successful. Students came on campus and that’s when we rolled into phase three and we’re currently in phase three. So phase three started in October, and this is the testing, the regular weekly testing of students on campus, living on campus. This is done now through four of our sites across the campus, and it’s the same process that we’ve done from the start. So we’ve got it down pat, the good thing too, is that the students are now pretty much used to the process and it goes relatively smoothly, you know, really under about five minutes from time of check-in to checking out and because of the volume, we have had some a few issues with the turnaround time and we’re looking at other ways to collect samples, other ways to perform testing and even potentially contracting with other labs to ensure that we have this best quickest turnaround time.

  1. CHANG (04:00):

So that’s been the process so far and just a few words about the sites themselves. We’ve tried to locate them so that they’re convenient for each of our students that are living across the different areas. We started with open air as the best option. However mother nature and air quality control issues have really shown us that indoor is a bit of a safer option. However, we’ve tried to maintain at least one of our sites open as another option. We do have first aid stations at each of our sites that are manned by medically trained personnel in case there is an issue or a concern that does come up. And these first aid rooms are also used for any of our students that may have special accommodations. For example, some of our students may have disabilities, which prohibit them from collecting a sample on their own or other situations that allow for more of a separated or a private area for test taking. And that seems to be working out quite well. And overall it seems that we’ve nailed this down to a certain degree. We know what to expect from our students. And most importantly, our students know what to expect as well. So it’s becoming quite routine. Although there always are times to kind of fine tune and improve our processes moving forward.

HOST (05:14):

That’s great. That’s great to hear that it’s becoming a routine as part of their sort of academic life on campus. And, the fine tuning, that’s always part of the process. So let’s move over to David. David, you’re heading up UCI’s contact tracing program. Can you share, first of all, what contact tracing is and also how our program came to be?

DAVID SOULELES (05:39):

Sure. Sheri, thank you. Yes. So contact tracing, I know folks have probably heard a lot about it in the news, but may not really know what it is or what it means, but it really is a companion program to a testing program because our goal with contact tracing is when somebody is COVID positive identified, is to really break the chain of infection, right? We want to slow down the spread of the disease. And so contact tracing is a tried and true public health tool. That’s been used for decades for many different types of communicable diseases to help break the chain of infection when we identify a case. And in this case a COVID case. So basically what happens is when an individual tests positive for COVID 19, the contact tracing program staff will reach out and call the individual and conduct a case interview.

SOULELES (06:35):

We’ll talk to the individual about where they’ve been in the last 14 days who they’ve been around in the last several days. Anything that can help us understand where they may have become exposed to the virus and also identifying their close contacts. So people that have been in close contact with them, who we would then also want to reach out to. So we do in a pretty extensive interview, it lasts about an hour. We really try to assess the home situation make sure that they are able to implement the strategies we need them to implement in terms of isolating. And then as I said, identifying their close contacts who we will then also call to let them know that they are a close contact to a case. And in both cases, we take public health protective actions.

SOULELES (07:27):

So for an individual who is COVID positive, we ask them to isolate for a period of time from either their test date or when their symptoms began. And the idea of isolating is, is really what the word means. It’s staying in place, staying in your home, not going out, not creating opportunities where you might expose other people to the virus while you’re infectious. So we will give instructions to individuals who are COVID positive on how to do that. We’ll assess their home environment so that if it is difficult for them to isolate safely in their home, we can work with campus, social workers on options to move them onto campus and isolation apartments on campus. If they happen to be an off-campus student we work with housing for on-campus students. If somebody lives in a residence hall or an apartment, we are able to move them into an isolation department then for the close contacts.

SOULELES (08:22):

So these are individuals who are not sick, but they were a close contact to a case. They will actually be required to quarantine for 14 days from the date of last contact with the case, and also then to test at about day seven. So those two things together, the quarantining for 14 days and the testing at day seven again, helps to break the chain of infection. Should that close contact become positive, during that 14-day period. So we take the person out of circulation essentially, again, staying home, not going out. We work with campus housing to assure that food delivery can occur or that food needs are met again, if we have students who live off campus, but need to quarantine, and they’re in a housing situation that doesn’t effectively support quarantining, that we’re able to work with campus social workers to bring them onto campus, to quarantine as well. And really, again, the goal is to break the chain of infection. We know, as Dr. Chang said that people can be infected with COVID-19 and be asymptomatic, but be able to transmit it. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to those close contacts and quarantine that as well.

HOST (09:40):

Oh, thank you. That is a really great overview. And just to clarify this is a UCI specific contact tracing program, is it not?

SOULELES (09:50):

Yes, correct. So contact tracing really is a public health function. So your local public health department is typically the entity that would do contact tracing and does contact tracing for COVID 19. UC Irvine was very forward-thinking and reached out to the Orange County Healthcare Agency, our local public health authority, and actually entered into a memorandum of understanding that provides a UCI contact tracing program with the authority to conduct contact tracing for the campus population. So we will be talking with students and staff and faculty who are COVID positive. So we cover the whole gamut of our population. And in talking to them, we will reach out to them about their campus context. So other staff, faculty, and students who they may have come in contact with, and also their household members, right? So we will focus on those populations of contacts when we are doing our interviews and doing our interventions, we then actually report all of this information to the Orange County Healthcare Agency, the local public health department. And we coordinate with them on the ongoing case investigation and management. So let’s say for example, a case that we identify also works in the community at a retail establishment or food establishment, or attended a family event offsite. We would transfer that information to the County health department who would then conduct the follow-up for any close contacts that were not associated with UCI that were off campus.

HOST (11:30):

So I’m just going to pick on you a little bit more, because you said you transfer information to the Orange County Healthcare Agency. What is the information that you transfer? Because I think there are people want to know exactly what of their personal information is being transferred. Can you elaborate on that?

SOULELES (11:50):

I sure can. That’s a very good question. So I think it’s really important first and foremost, for people to understand that all of the information collected by contact tracing is confidential information. That’s treated confidentially, and it is not shared except for the purposes of doing isolation and quarantine and are basically mandated reporting to local public health. So and I think that’s an important point. So anytime somebody is identified as COVID positive, that is in California, legally required to be reported to the local public health department so that a local public health department can do case investigation and contact tracing. And so we’re doing that in partnership with the local public health department. Our goal is to share the minimum amount necessary in order for both contact tracing and local public health to be able to do the public health control measures that we need to do in order to break the chain of infection. But absolutely folks should feel assured that their information is treated confidentiality and only shared for the purposes of isolation and quarantine and public health investigation.

HOST (13:03):

That’s very helpful. Thank you for elaborating on that. Really appreciate it. So that background was extremely helpful on how the testing and the contact tracing work. And I want to just put it more into context here, and I’m going to turn back to you, Dr. Chang, what happens? What is the process? If a asymptomatic student goes through our testing and they’re residing in campus housing, obviously, because that’s why they’re doing the testing, what happens if have an individual who tests positive? What kicks into motion from your standpoint?

  1. CHANG (13:40):

Sure, Sheri, thank you. So the first thing that happens is the lab itself identifies a positive case and the lab is directed to contact our student health center medical team as soon as possible. These are high alerts. These are critical results because we need to act ASAP. So once we receive the results, the first thing that we do as a student health center is look into our system to ensure this is truly one of our UCI students and that they are of the population that we did the testing on. Then we do a direct reach out to the student. First, there are several cases where students that have been tested previously and tested positive for COVID previously will be continued to be positive on retesting. And that’s sometimes a situation that we want to clarify any other circumstances, any other issues to ensure that this student did actually have this test done.

  1. CHANG (14:32):

One of the most important things though, is to assure that the student is feeling fine if they didn’t have symptoms upon testing, but they may have developed symptoms since then and ensuring that their health and their wellbeing is kind of the first situation. That’s why we contact the student first to ensure that any of their clinical needs are the first and top priority. Once we’ve identified all of this information and made the basic contact and provided our support and information, then we contact both the contact tracing team and our housing team, and it sets the, the gears into motion. We’ve been doing this for a while now, and it’s really become a straightforward, really integrated process. Communication is critical and we’ve used several forms of communication, shared information through our data systems, as well as direct phone calls, because, you know, each case is a bit unique and we’re making sure that the information is clear and concise.

  1. CHANG (15:43):

And I’ll mention here for us, student privacy and security of personal health information is our top goal, as well. So we are not sharing this throughout different departments and throughout the campus at all. It’s truly only student health contact tracing in housing for our current population because they live on campus. When housing hears this information, depending on the residence that the student is living in, we have designated isolation units, as well as quarantine units, depending on the situation.They start mobilizing those individuals to prepare the units for the students, for example, but the positive case, they will go into isolation for 10 days, 10 days, typically from either the date that they tested or 10 days from the start of their symptoms, they’re to be in that unit for that full duration. So they’re to bring all their clothing, toiletries, their laptop, whatever they truly need to keep themselves.

  1. CHANG (16:49):

Self-Sufficient meals will be provided through the university for most of those students, for sure if they have our meal plan and other issues of linens and laundry, we’ve worked that all out on a regular basis. They are contacted by our housing team to ensure that things are going well. And if they do develop symptoms or have clinical questions, they’re directly routed to our medical center services as well. The third part of the team is the contact tracing team. And as David explained, there’s a full list of processes and procedures that moves forward to help identify those potential close contacts. So it’s our call first from student health, it’s arranging for the movement to quarantine or isolation by housing, and then identifying those other individuals through contact tracing.

HOST (17:52):

That’s great. Thank you for walking us through that process because I would imagine it would be a little daunting if you feel fine and somebody calls you and says you’re positive. And guess what, we’ve got to move you and all this.

  1. CHANG (18:07):

Yeah. So, I’ll share, you know, Sheri, that’s exactly one of the points that’s different with asymptomatic testing. Previously through the year when I’ve been testing students and I’ve been reporting positive cases, they knew it was coming because they either had symptoms or they were the ones that requested the test. For many of our asymptomatic students, they feel fine. They have no indication of illness. They have no known exposure. So it is a surprise to many of them and it can be shocking for sure. So that’s why we try to do the best we can to reassure we’re always available to answer their questions. Of course, many times they, as they share with their families, we’ve had parents call us for clarification of process. And we ensure, you know, getting consent to speak to the parents first, right. That we reassure the family members that we let them know what we’re doing so that they know that their children are being taken care of. And on top of it all, we ensure that resources for our counseling center for other support measures are all in place to get them through this sometimes difficult time.

HOST (19:11):

That’s great. Thank you for walking us through that. And I’ll just do a plug here. Because you mentioned they would go into to special rooms designed for quarantine or isolation. Well, in the case of number of positive cases in isolation rooms, all that information is available publicly on the uci.edu/coronavirus website. If you go there there’s a button called UCI dashboard and we update that every day. So you can see just how many rooms are being occupied, how many are available and, and so I invite people to visit that. David, based on what Dr. Chang has just outlined, at what point does the contact tracing process kick in you? You kind of already walked us through that. So, we don’t need to kind of go through all that again, but at what point in this process, does your team start to get involved

SOULELES (20:08):

Immediately. Thanks for that question. Absolutely immediately. Dr. Chang’s usually first communication is to the contact tracing team and then his second communication is to the COVID positive student at which point Dr. Chang will let the student know that contact tracing, we’ll be calling housing, we’ll be calling so they know they know what’s coming. And as soon as we know, the student has been notified of their test result, we are the next call they get and we will do that case interview because as you can imagine, time is of the essence, right? The sooner the individual is in isolation and the sooner the close contacts are identified and able to quarantine the quicker we’re able to intervene and break that chain of infection and reduce the risk that anybody else may become exposed to the virus.

SOULELES (21:05):

So, we are pretty much an immediate response and I will say just one other thing, because we’ve been talking about privacy and, you know, the, the communication back and forth between the team. Really, two things. One is that we again really involve the minimal number of people that are needed, effectively manage the situation. So information is not being shared widely, but just with a small team of folks that really work on this response between student health and housing and the contact tracing team. And then also, I think it’s really important for people to understand, particularly for those that are COVID positive, who we’re talking to. When we reach out to the close contacts that they’ve identified, we do not identify who the individual was exposed. When we talk to a close contact, we simply say you have been identified as somebody who may have been a close contact to a case. So at no time do we divulge the names of our cases, even to the close contacts who we’re reaching out to,

HOST (22:04):

That’s very helpful to know. That’s a really good clarification. And I’ll just share from my standpoint in, in the world of strategic communications, we are the ones who communicate this through a daily campus email, and also update the dashboard. And occasionally we get questions about, well, where was this positive case? Was it near me? Was it in this housing? Or was it over here and there? And we can’t say, honestly, we don’t know, we don’t get that information by the time it makes it to us, but we do want to be, as a university, transparent and reporting our case counts. So, you know, if you haven’t been called by a contact tracer, chances are you’re good to go, right. Would that be fair?

SOULELES (22:50):

That’s absolutely correct. Yes. So at any time we are really identifying the individuals that we believe meet the close contact definition, which is being closer than six feet for 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period cumulatively. So, and that’s important. That definition has changed in the last couple of weeks. So it used to be 15 minutes at a time. Now it is 15 minutes. Close contact is less than six feet for 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24 hour period. So if you were with somebody for carpooling for five minutes in the morning, and then you were close to them for five minutes at lunch, and then you were close to them carpooling for five minutes in the evening, that adds up to 15 minutes, that would be considered a close context. So you can imagine that our contact tracers are doing, you know, they’re, really helping individuals to really think back during their exposure period and, and trying to prompt them to think about things they might’ve done that they don’t necessarily think are close.

SOULELES (23:57):

An example of a close contacts that is really good, I think, is carpooling. We’ve, seen that as an issue that people don’t necessarily think of as a close contact. The other one is meals together. So, we find often that people are great at physically distancing. They’re great at wearing, face coverings. And we really appreciate that because those are equally important to testing and contact tracing. But then we sometimes forget when we sit down to have lunch and we get around a table together and we all take our masks off to eat and realize, Oh, we’ve all been, you know, within six feet of each other with our masks off for 15 minutes, that creates a close contact situation.

HOST (24:36):

That’s really helpful to share some examples. I think people will really appreciate hearing, you know, the carpooling, for example. In the definition that you outlined, does that include wearing face coverings?

SOULELES (24:50):

So, it’s regardless of face covering. So, you know, as much as we’d like to say that the face covering is a free pass by definitions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and our own local Orange County Health Care Agency, that close contact is regardless of whether or not face coverings were worn.

HOST (25:13):

Very good. Okay. Well, thank you. So let’s move on and talk about how these programs work together. So UCI is preventing the spread by having both of these programs. We’re really in a, in a fine position to, to be able to have these resources to help control the spread. But how is UCI controlling the spread by having both working together versus just testing, for example? if you could elaborate on, on just how contact tracing and the asymptomatic testing work together, that’d be great. And David, I’ll start with you on this one.

SOULELES (25:52):

Sure. And absolutely really neither of these programs are effective independently, right? So if we’re not testing, we don’t have the ability to really identify the cases in the first place to take the protective actions on and to do the contact tracing. And if we’re testing, but we don’t have the contact tracing then we’re not able to effectively break the chain of infection quickly. And one of the reasons we were able to establish the program here in partnership with the Orange County Healthcare Agency was really to allow us to be a much more rapid responder, because the County is obviously dealing with a population of over 3 million people and all, and you can imagine the hundreds of case reports that come in every day that they need to do contact tracing on. Having us here with a dedicated team, just for our campus, is an advantage.

SOULELES (26:43):

You know, as we talked about a few minutes ago, we can start immediately, as soon as we’ve been notified that we have a positive case. Whereas the health department would typically need to wait for the test to be reported through the public health reporting systems. And that may take a day or two or three, so they may be a little bit delayed. So really the benefit of having us here in partnership with the campus based testing program is the ability to act immediately. And I would also say that these programs, while important and key to our response, equally important is the physical distancing being, you know, six feet apart or more, equally important is wearing your face coverings. Whenever you are on campus; equally important is good hand hygiene. It’s all of these pieces working together create an opportunity for us to slowly get back to campus life as we’re trying to do. You know, our first step was bringing students back to housing this fall. And it was because we put all of these pieces in place that we felt we could do it in a safe manner, but, we all have to be all in all the time with all of the measures in order to really help to keep our campus safe.

HOST (28:00):

Yes. Yes. Thank you for those important public health reminders. Those, you know, despite a lot of information from, sort of so-called experts and they’re changing sometimes from time to time; those things have never wavered. So that’s good to know. And Dr. Chang, did you want to add to that about how the programs work together? You kind of outlined the process of what happens when you have an asymptomatic student test positive and you start alerting housing and all that kind of thing. From your end, how do you see these working together to really help control the spread?

  1. CHANG (28:38):

Yeah. David did a wonderful explanation and I agree with him 100%. So we’ve been trying to do our best with contract tracing at the student health center. So it’s not officially contact tracing, but we ask all the questions. We try to identify those other students and do our best to notify that best way. We’ve done that from the start. But as David mentioned, this is a full-time job, and we are so fortunate to have David and his team on board with us here, because as he mentioned, we can do the testing and we can identify the positive, what we know right through infectious disease and spread that there are others that are out there, and then there are others on the campus. And so having the dedicated team and staff to focus on that and really stay on top of task.

  1. CHANG (29:25):

The first case is just the tip of the iceberg. Truly it expands as you kind of dig deeper, right? It’s, you know, it’s about maybe what each one of our cases identify as, you know, five or more at times, you know, close contacts that we now pay close attention to. So it’s not only supported us from the work that we do at student health. It’s, it’s doing an essential job of keeping our community safe. So yeah, we are so, so fortunate, you know, to have a dedicated team like this on, on our campus for our students, our staff, and our faculty, it, it supports the community as a whole and strong partnerships with the County. So, both David and his team, you know, they’re, they’ve got much experience with the County. They know the people there. So that was one of the challenges in the very beginning, we were working very close and we’ve always worked closely with the County agency, however, you know, just time and volume took priority.

  1. CHANG (30:24):

And so for us as well as them. So having someone that to not only be our team, but also play the liaison to continuously update our guidelines and our protocols that match the demographics and the changes of our Orange County, right. Specific community has been, has been a critical component to all of this. And I just wanted to share you know, the way that we all work together. And we explained it kind of from, from identifying that first positive case or asymptomatic testing this team, and this unit works for all positive cases that come up. And truthfully, there are many cases now that housing tells us first about a student that discloses of a test that they did somewhere or contact tracing, lets us know that County has identified a student, right? Some living on campus, but some living off campus and we perform the contact tracing. We ensure that we reach out and provide all services. So we’ve been focusing on kind of our screening program here, but the service that we have and the resources that we have apply to all situations at all positive cases for not just students, but also contact tracing, also staff and faculty testing also. So there’s a lot of work that’s going on. So we’re really lucky to have this team on campus.

HOST (31:46):

Yeah, it really, it sounds like we’re really leaving no stone unturned in this process. So let’s look to the future. What can we expect from these programs going forward? And I’ll start with you, Dr. Chang, is testing going to be expanded or altered or how will that look going forward that you know of at this time?

  1. CHANG (32:06):

Sure. Well then that’s, you know, one of the really interesting things, Sheri, we’ve all seen it is that things change and transform all the time and, and processes and protocols are evolving and growing. And so I am sure that we will continue to find that best level of testing, that best process of testing. In fact, you know, as we’ve been doing our nasal swab as our collection protocol, we’ve been investing a lot of time, energy and effort looking into saliva sample collecting as an option to nasal swab collecting. And there may be a time where there’s even a process that’s improved beyond that in the future. We’re looking at not just the PCR testing that we’ve been doing from the start, but also an antigen based testing protocol for some of our student populations that may give us a quicker turnaround time, but it’s a give and take sometimes with sensitivity of the test itself.

  1. CHANG (33:05):

As far as schedules of testing, that’s something that we’re looking at as well. So we are currently doing a schedule, a weekly testing for our students on campus, but we may shift that to be more frequent or less frequent depending on how our numbers look, but we’re also looking to expand our populations. So we we’re starting with those students living on campus, but we know that we have students that are working on campus. And we know that there are students that are taking very select courses on campus as well. And so we’ll probably group them into our populations for testing moving forward. And we mentioned already that we’ve started testing certain populations of our staff and then making sure other members of our staff are also in enrolled into the process of testing to identify some of these asymptomatic cases.

HOST (33:52):

Okay, great. And David, do you see contact tracing expanding alongside testing? Will you grow the number of contact tracers you have or what does the future of that look like as we grow our testing?

SOULELES (34:06):

Sure. So our goal for contact tracing is not to be busy, right? Our hope is that if our campus population can kind of follow those public health measures that we’ve talked about, the physical distancing the wearing of face coverings, the hand hygiene for our students who have been organized into Zot pods and in student housing that they are interacting, you know, within their, their pod, all of these measures, hopefully, reduce the number of people that end up testing positive through our asymptomatic testing program or, you know, through our symptomatic testing programs. But, that said, we have a team, of contact tracers onboard. We act a little bit like the fire department. We wait for the cases to come in and when they come in, we hop into action and some days are quieter and other days are very busy depending on the number of cases that are reported.

SOULELES (34:59):

We will be kind of continually monitoring the status of the pandemic and what our case rates are throughout the County and what our positivity rate is looking like on campus and are prepared to adjust our staffing up if we need to. Our hope is we don’t have to but are prepared to kind of meet whatever you know, comes to the university in terms of dealing with the number of positive cases that we identify. So I really just would like to repeat though and emphasize that you know, we, we have the ability to control this. We really do, and contact tracing and testing are important, but those simple everyday actions that students and staff and faculty can take that we’ve all heard over and over again are as important, if not more important than the testing and the contact tracing to really reducing the spread of infection.

HOST (35:54):

That’s, that’s great to hear. And it really sounds like UCI is doing what it can to help control the spread between the asymptomatic testing and the symptomatic testing, and also the contact tracing. So for the final question and I’ll start with you, Dr. Chang, what can students do?

  1. CHANG (36:12):

Right. So I’ll start with that the decision to bring students back on campus was a difficult one knowing that, you know, COVID is still prevalent throughout our communities. And so we wanted to ensure that bringing students back, that we’ll bring them back into an environment that was as safe and protected as possible. And a part of doing that was looking at not only the structure of testing and the setup of our housing, but also to support those best behaviors for students that were turning to campus. Cause it’s a different situation than it was last year. And we developed the Anteater Pledge here at UCI. So the Anteater Pledge is a commitment for each of our students that are coming on campus to do the best they can to support the health and wellbeing of not only themselves, but their classmates, their pod mates that they’re living with and really supporting the campus as a whole.

  1. CHANG (37:05):

So there are a set of guidelines about those best practices and how life is really kind of changing on campus now with COVID in our environment. Having said that I’m incredibly proud of how our leaders have done, our students have done a phenomenal job to comply, to support and truly look at not only their own health, but once again, the health of those around them. And even though there have been cases and cases identified of, you know, not maybe behaving in that right best way, the students’ response and the students’ continued good behaviors and kind of following those guidelines has been, I think, very impressive. There are situations of course, that have come up. And I think the feedback from our students is critical so that we get a good view of the impact of some of the decisions that we’re making moving forward.

  1. CHANG (37:54):

And all the feedback is taken to heart and in truth, we’ve made some accommodations to our processes or protocols, our testing sites with the feedback of our students. And so my goal for our students is to continue to do the good work, continue to, to follow those health guidelines. It’s key to support each other with letting us know what’s going on. And then, you know, supporting yourself, you know, being mastered, being important team, staying in your pods, right? Distance, remote learning, it’s a challenge. And so finding what you can do for yourself to keep yourself active, to keep yourself healthy and keep supporting the community as a whole.

HOST (38:33):

That’s great. Thank you. David, would you like to add anything on what students can do from your standpoint?

SOULELES (38:40):

Sure. Thank you. I think Dr. Chang really hit the nail on the head, and I think we’ve talked about all of those tried and true measures of wearing the face covering and physical distancing and washing your hands and socializing in your pods, but I’ll make a special point. Given the timing of this podcast for coming up to the holidays. We have Halloween this weekend on Saturday. We have Thanksgiving coming up in a few weeks and, you know, while we all want to do the traditional things we normally would do on Halloween and Thanksgiving, unfortunately COVID does not take the holiday, right? So the protective actions that we are all doing every day, we have to keep doing right through those holidays. You know, I live in a neighborhood that has been known for you know, thousands of kids coming through for trick-or-treating on Halloween and we will not be opening up our house this year.

SOULELES (39:33):

Because it’s just not the safe public health thing to do. If we’re really trying to tamp down the pandemic, I’m looking at Thanksgiving plans with my family and we’re saying, nope, we’re not going to do it this year because it’s just not safe. These are extraordinary times. And I think we all have to kind of make decisions about what, what we need to do to protect our own health, the health of our families and vulnerable family members and the health of our UCI community. I know one of the things we are urging, for example, with our on campus student housed population, is that if you choose to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re really asking that you stay home then for the remainder of the academic year and continue your learning remote from home. And really that’s because we don’t want to put our students at risk traveling back and forth, but also the risk of a virus being brought back to the campus from those family holidays and know these are tough decisions and it’s, and it’s hard for all of us to think about maybe not being with our families for the holiday, but we all just have to make appropriate choices and then follow through when we make that choice on the appropriate next step.

SOULELES (40:46):

So that if you do go home, stay home. If you end up coming back, we’re going to ask you to quarantine in your room for 14 days and go through weekly testing. So, I think just really helping people to think about making the healthiest choices they can coming into the holiday season to protect themselves, to protect their families and to protect our campus community.

HOST (41:10):

Thank you so much. I’m really glad to hear you bring up the coming holiday season because those are, those are unfun decisions to make, you know, and it’s easy to make the decision around what you’d like to do, but you have to kind of put, think about outside yourself and how your decision is going to impact other people around you. Dr. Chang and David. I just want to thank you both for being here today.

  1. CHANG and DACID SOULELES (41:36):

Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for this opportunity to share.

HOST (41:39):

Thank you so much. The UCI podcast is a great way to learn about what’s happening at the University of California, Irvine, but it’s not the only way. For information specific to coronavirus and the UCI campus, including our testing and case dashboard, visit our website, uci.edu/coronavirus, and for COVID-19 information for the community such as clinical trials, research and features visit UCI hyphen COVID-19 dot org. You can find general UCI announcements at news dot uci dot edu. And finally, another great way to connect is through our social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and more. The UCI podcast is a production of strategic communications and public affairs at the university of California. Irvine. I’m Sheri Ledbetter. Thank you for listening.