ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - School has been back in session for close to a month at the University of Central Florida, and classes have brought students and staff back to campus once again. 

What You Need To Know

  • Six student contract tracers were chosen at UCF out of more than 600 applications

  • Tracers contact students who may have been exposed to COVID-19

  • Related: UCF Coronavirus Website

Along with mask mandates and required symptom self-checks for students and staff, UCF also has its own contact tracing teams in place to help keep coronavirus cases down. 

This semester, some students are working to keep their campus safe from home. 

Along with her virtual senior year classes, Desiree Rivera spends hours every week making calls and questioning students. It's part of her work as one of six student contact tracers, to help identify potential coronavirus cases on campus. 

“We’re kind of like little medical detectives, and it’s an investigation in order to help limit that spread,” Rivera said.

More than 600 students applied over the summer to volunteer for the student contact tracing team with UCF and the Florida Department of Health.

“It was kind of an out-of-the-box way for us to kind of give back and help the UCF community without risking our own safety,” Rivera said. 

Each week, the contact tracers get a long list of people to call — all students who may have been exposed to coronavirus. The direct contact from student to student is a comfort in an uncomfortable situation, Rivera said. 

“So far, everyone I’ve spoken with has been pretty receptive and you know it’s not always going to be that way. But since it’s a student-to-student interaction, it makes them feel more comfortable, and we can kind of understand each other on that level," she said.

And it’s working. 

The contact tracing team, together with staff at student health services, has identified large numbers of cases on campus, leading to more testing and earlier identification of coronavirus cases, including those in on-campus sorority housing earlier this month. 

“It is a very vital process," said Karina Villalba, assistant professor of population health sciences in the UCF College of Medicine. ​Villalba also serves as a coordinator for the student contact tracing team at UCF.

"I think that what we’re doing, which is trying to mitigate potential exposure to COVID-19, is our priority at UCF and we’re doing the best we can,” Villalba said. 

Rivera said the work and regular calls have helped her to feel connected with her fellow students during a time of isolation. And with every call she makes, it's helping stop further spread to keep her fellow Knights safe. 

“Definitely I feel like it’s making a difference,” she said. 

For more information, including how to find coronavirus resources and case statistics, visit the UCF coronavirus website.