The UNLV School of Public Health was awarded a $1.7 million grant from the state of Nevada to continue its COVID-19 contract tracing efforts in collaboration with the Southern Nevada Health District. This grant extends the partnership launched in the fall with an initial $3.4 million commitment from the state.
Through the program, 200 university students have been hired and trained to assist in identifying and reaching out to individuals who may have been exposed by those testing positive for COVID-19.
“Since the earliest days of the pandemic, our students have been at the forefront of helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Shawn Gerstenberger, dean of the UNLV School of Public Health. “Contact tracing remains crucial, and we are proud to be able to continue this necessary program at UNLV.”
UNLV’s contact tracing team was first formed in March with a core group of volunteers who have been supporting SNHD throughout the pandemic. While the first group of contact tracers were exclusively students from the School of Public Health, the grants have provided the opportunity for UNLV students across multiple disciplines to participate.
“During our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health resources have been stretched to their limits,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, Acting Chief Health Officer for the Southern Nevada Health District. “Our community partnerships have been essential during this time, and we are appreciative of UNLV’s continued support of our contact tracing efforts.”
The contact tracing team is led by public health graduate students. In the contact tracing process, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are interviewed by the contact tracers and asked to identify anyone they may have been in recent contact with. They are asked about any symptoms experienced and advised on testing and quarantine protocols.
Student contact tracers are trained and initially make calls under supervision at UNLV. Once trained, they perform their duties remotely. UNLV’s student contact tracers speak at least 16 different languages and reflect the diversity of the university’s student body and the greater community.
The program’s principal investigator, Brian Labus, is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and a member of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 task force.
About the UNLV School of Public Health
The UNLV School of Public Health was established in 2004 with the goal of improving the health and well-being of people worldwide. More than fifteen years later, its departments, programs, and research units are growing and still working to provide a diverse education, practical training experience, and numerous community involvement opportunities to prepare students to become leaders and professionals in the field of Public Health. Learn more at unlv.edu/publichealth
About the Southern Nevada Health District
The Southern Nevada Health District serves as the local public health authority for Clark County, Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and North Las Vegas. The agency safeguards the public health of the community’s residents and visitors through innovative programs, regulations, and initiatives focused on protecting and promoting their health and well-being. More information about the Health District, its programs, services, and the regulatory oversight it provides is available at www.SNHD.info.