A&M-K's new contact tracing will help students get back to work

Posted at 3:55 PM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-29 01:06:57-04

KINGSVILLE, Texas — The 2020 school year is underway, and while many students have continued to learn by virtual means, about 30 percent of Texas A&M-Kingsville's classes are meeting face to face.

With students and faculty going in and out of classrooms, the school will need to remain vigilant in order to contain the potential spread of COVID-19 to prevent an outbreak.

"Our intentions are to provide as much of a safe-learning environment for our students this year," said the university's executive director of enterprise risk management Shane Creel.

Its first step in prevention: creating its own means of contact tracing.

"We looked at different options and decided to go with our own homegrown idea," said associate vice president of student affairs Jaya Goswami.

Through 250 unique QR codes placed in different classrooms across campus, the school will require students to scan the codes each time they enter class.

Once they scan the code, they are time marked in the school's database, and university officials are able to see where students are and when. This allows officials to take action if a student or member of the faculty tests positive for the novel coronavirus.

"We would isolate the entire class and the faculty member," Goswami said. "Once that is established, the class will be provided online for a period of at least two weeks."

This method of contact tracing is far easier than the alternative of tracking down person after person asking where they have been.

"We are able to do this with just a couple clicks of a mouse," Creel said.

It is a different situation for the students entering the classroom, but for student-body president Lidia Morales, she will do whatever she can to stay safe and have a sense of normalcy.

"Part of college is the face-to-face interactions and making those bonds," she said. "This allows me to now know whether or not I can hang out with friends or go see my family."

The basic QR code scan is nothing new, but it might be the key for students getting back to school this fall, and it certainly helps members of the faculty manage the pressure of having students on campus this fall.

"It is a true benefit," Creel added.