Taking Contact Tracing Private
An integral part of campus re-opening plans
- By Ryan Schonfeld
- December 08, 2020
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.