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Davis, California

Monday, May 20, 2024

Student EMTs transport COVID-19 positive students to quarantine housing

The new program is a partnership between UC Davis Fire Department, Student Health and Counseling Services and Student Housing and Dining Services

The UC Davis Fire Department, Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) and Student Housing and Dining Services have collaborated to establish a new program for students who tested positive for COVID-19. The transportation service is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. They are now able to move into on-campus quarantine housing safely and efficiently with the assistance of student emergency medical technicians (EMTs). 

“Often freshmen, on campus in particular, and people that live in the dorms don’t have access to a vehicle,” said Nathaniel Hartinger, deputy fire chief of the UC Davis Fire Department. “How do we get the positive folks, who no one wants to be exposed to, to this other area where they can quarantine?” 

Matthew Kenaston, a third-year microbiology major and senior-level student EMT, further elaborated on the difficulty people living on campus face.

“If you’re in Tercero, West Village, these other university-associated apartments, it’d be really difficult to bike with all your stuff that you would need for a 10-day period in quarantine,” Kenaston said. “Unless it’s your own personal, private vehicle that no one else will be using, they don’t recommend having someone else drive you because you’re increasing exposure.”

Kenaston stated that the fire department is suited for the transportation service because they’re already equipped with the necessary provisions. 

“Our service is the optimal service because we have the PPE, we have the resources and we have the wherewithal to do this in the most safe way possible, aside from someone’s own personal vehicle driving them,” Kenaston said. 

When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they are referred to SHCS to see if they qualify for the service, Hartinger said. 

“We are very excited about this amazing partnership with the UC Davis Fire Department,” said Cindy Schorzman, the medical director of the SHCS via email. “Student Health and Counseling Services oversees the result notification and case investigation process for students who test positive for COVID-19 on campus, either through the asymptomatic screening kiosk at the ARC, the mobile asymptomatic screening kiosk at veterinary medicine or through symptomatic or close contact at SHCS.”

After SHCS conducts contact tracing and determines whether the individual needs to be quarantined, they are asked questions to help determine if the student can safely and effectively isolate their current residence, Shorzman said. If a student cannot quarantine in their place of residence, they are offered space in the on-campus quarantine/isolation housing. 

According to the UC Davis Campus Ready website, the process of contact tracing has four steps: notifying students of their diagnosis, offering direction and support, assisting through consultations and appointments and identifying potential transmission.

“If they live on campus, the student housing department has a whole area for quarantine for them,” Hartinger said. “Instead of having to quarantine within their room and be within a building with other folks—where it is more densely populated—they will house them in a separate area.” 

“We have a system in place where our student EMTs will pick [the patients] up in a particular vehicle and transport them over there in a safe fashion,” Hartinger said. 

According to Hartinger, the program started just right before the break. 

“Because everyone was already off campus, we didn’t even have a transport over the holiday,” Hartinger said. “So our first transport started at the beginning of this month.” 

To transport positive students to quarantine-specific housing, the UC Davis Fire Department repurposed an existing vehicle. 

“We repurposed the vehicle that we had,” Hartinger said. “We’re able to put some plexiglass up in it and cordoned off the back area so that they’re fully separate. [There are] different air systems in there so there really isn’t that much of an exposure, and our student EMTs have full PPE that’s appropriate for transport as well.”

This vehicle was an EMS 234, a repurposed vehicle originally intended for football games, according to an article published by Dateline UC Davis. 

“We are always happy to step in wherever there is a need,” Hartinger said. “We have quite a few trained EMTs already. They are aware of disease transmission. They are aware of proper PPE usage [and] how to put these items on and off.

Currently, there are six qualified students who can provide the transportation services, Hartinger said. 

“Even though the folks aren’t patients [of EMTs]—they are students being transferred and they’re not technically being treated by EMTs—there is a real high level of knowledge that lends to a level of comfort,” Hartinger said.

This position is volunteer-based, and students who are transporting patients are being paid for their services. 

“They were all eager to help,” Hartinger said. “One of the silver linings to this entire pandemic is that everyone is stepping forward to do what they can and provide to help others.” 

“Now that we are in the middle of the quarter, we are averaging 50 to 60 students in isolation housing at this point in time,” said Director of the Office of Student Development of Student Housing and Dining Services Branden Petitt. 

Petitt said that in addition to providing the staff support to look over the intake process, Student Housing and Dining Services actively communicates with partners on campus during this process. 

As of Jan. 22, in the past seven days, the total campus COVID-19 cases has reached 97, taking into account cases identified from asymptomatic testing, Student Health and Wellness Center and self-reports, according to the Campus Ready website. 

Out of 13,500 asymptomatic tests, 0.58% were positive between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16.

“This is just us trying to bridge that gap in available services to people that need it,” Hartinger said.

Written by: Aarya Gupta and Lyra Farrell — campus@theaggie.org


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