UAMS to Conduct COVID-19 Contact Tracing for Arkansas Colleges and Universities

UAHT Feature

Casey Curtis

LITTLE ROCK — The Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of
Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and UAMS Northwest Regional Campus have
been authorized by the Arkansas Department of Health to conduct COVID-19 contact
tracing for public and private colleges and universities in Arkansas.
The project is in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the
Arkansas Department of Health.
“Our goal is to protect the students and employees on each of these campuses,” said Jay
Gandy, Ph.D., associate provost and project lead for the UAMS Northwest Regional
Campus. “This group effort will allow us to control the spread of the coronavirus
pandemic among the higher education institutions in Arkansas.”
Contact tracing is how public health officials track the spread of an infectious disease. If
a person is confirmed to have COVID-19, they isolate themselves so they don’t spread
the illness. Public health officials contact these people to help them recall who they’ve
been in contact with while they are infectious. Then those people are contacted and asked
to quarantine themselves to stop further spread.
The effort is supported by $5 million in federal coronavirus aid that was allocated by the
by the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Steering
Committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The project will involve establishing two contact tracing centers, one in central Arkansas
and one in northwest Arkansas. The work will be done by 75 contact tracers, two center
directors, and an assistant center director.
“As colleges begin going back to school in August, we want to change the norms and
behaviors of these students,” said Ben Amick, Ph.D., associate dean for research and
project lead for the College of Public Health. “That will be the only way to ensure that
students are following social distancing practices, wearing masks, and taking other
COVID-19 precautions.”
The college has developed a website for resources, materials and best practices. Also,
UAMS, Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas Department of Higher Education
officials are working closely with each institution to ensure their preparedness plans are
in place and proper precautions are taken if a student or employee tests positive for
“Contact tracing this population presents unique challenges that require creative
solutions,” said Maria Markham, Ph.D., director of the Arkansas Department of Higher
Education. “The partnership between the Arkansas Department of Higher Education,
Arkansas Department of Health, UAMS, and these public and private institutions will
leverage our individual expertise and collective effort. I am grateful for a collaboration
focused on shortening the process of identifying and notifying contacts associated with
our students and employees.”
UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing,
Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main
campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a
statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P.
Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute,
Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W.
Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital
Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that
encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and
clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult
Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical
Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top
50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — cancer, colon cancer surgery,
heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has
2,727 students, 870 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest
public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who
provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital,
the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

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