As William & Mary’s chief technology officer, Corinne Picataggi describes herself as a “process person” and “systems thinker.” When it was time to help the university safely begin in-person classes amid COVID-19, she put those strengths to use.
The result was a case management system to help those in the W&M community who either have tested positive or been identified in close contact of someone who has. From the moment a case manager reaches out to a student or staff member, he or she becomes the main point of contact for any issues or questions that arise relating to the university.
For on-campus students, that includes connecting them with the Student Health Center, transportation and transition to isolation or quarantine housing, helping them shift to online classes, and identifying those who had been in close contact. Faculty and staff have different concerns, like converting to remote teaching, and navigating sick and leave policies.
Case managers also play a critical role in coordinating the university’s response by working with Environmental Health & Safety and Facilities Management on enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, limiting access to physical areas as needed, meeting notification requirements and collaborating with Virginia Department of Health officials.
Picataggi saw the need for comprehensive case management when she was asked to assist the university’s COVID-19 response plan.
“Each team was primed and ready to go,” she said. “What was missing was this coordination of how it was all going to come together. The positive (tested) person or those in close contact would get hit by so many different people and not know who they were supposed to call. It would have been overwhelming.
“So I had this idea that we should build a case management system where we could give concierge service to whoever needed it. We’d answer their questions and give them a point person for the university. And, on the administrative side, we’d make sure all the boxes are checked.”
The COVID-19 Response Team asked her to build an online reporting tool and coordinate the system of case managers — staff members working throughout the university — along with the Student Health Center, the testing group, the quarantine/isolation housing crew and university communications.
The system got its first test the weekend it went live as a residential student tested positive. Picataggi acted as the first case manager to make sure the protocols ran as planned.
The process is like this: After a student logs a positive test on ReportCOVID.wm.edu, a case manager — Picataggi said there are about 20 — reviews the form and contacts the Student Health Center. A doctor then reaches out to the student, and then a case manager makes initial contact.
When an employee tests positive, the case manager usually is the first form of contact. The privacy of those who test positive is protected.
“Most people, when they find out they are positive, have a lot of medical questions,” said Andrea Harris, associate director of university events and a case manager. “We’re getting our rhythm.
“We’re all working together really well. We all work together as a team and a unit.”
The system also allows William & Mary to provide a high level of personal care during a time when many students, faculty, staff members and their families are understandably stressed.
Residential students who require isolation or quarantine housing are taken to Richmond Hall. That’s where the Conference & Event Services staff — Logan Zumbrun, Madelyn Phillips, Todd Cooke and Director Mariellynn Maurer — are waiting.
For the isolation or quarantine period, they deliver meals and any packages that are sent. They even help find musical instruments to rent. Perhaps most important, they provide a friendly face — albeit masked and at least six feet away — for check-ins multiple times a day.
“We want to make them feel as comfortable as possible under the circumstances that have landed them here,” Maurer said. “We knock on their doors when we deliver their meals to check in and ask ‘Are you doing OK? Is there anything else we can get you?’”
Each room in Richmond Hall has a full bed, furniture, a mini-fridge, a microwave, and — of course — WiFi. W&M has an arrangement with two local hotels in case extra rooms are needed.
Those who test positive isolate for 10 days or longer if symptomatic at the direction of the Student Health Center. Those who have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 are quarantined for 14 days and tested about midway through to ensure they remain negative.
Student Health Center workers regularly check in. At least one Conference & Event Services staff member is on hand from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and someone is on call from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
“It’s not like they’re being brought to Richmond Hall and left there,” Zumbrun said. “We always try to provide that level of support by suggesting wellness classes through the student health center or we give them a number to the 24/7 counseling line.
“We tell them we’re always available either by phone, text, Zoom, email … we keep all avenues of communication open while they’re here. Our primary duties are to do the day-to-day checks so they have a friendly face. We try to keep their spirits up.”
That’s the goal.
“We’ve hopefully made it not an easy experience but a relatively comfortable one for them as much as possible,” added Phillips, ’19. “We’ve definitely had students say they appreciate all we do for them while they’re here. They seem as happy as they can be given the circumstances.”
In addition to checking for physical symptoms, like fever and shortness of breath, case managers also are on the lookout for signs of mental strain.
“This population is largely asymptomatic, so it’s not going to necessarily be fevers and sniffles and coughs,” Maurer said. “It’s going to be anxiety and stress or lack of sleep. It’s going to be more the mental side of being alone maybe for the first time, especially if you’re a freshman who just came to the university.”
Picataggi emphasizes any student or employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or is a close contact needs to notify the university by filling out the form at ReportCOVID.wm.edu. This includes those who have their tests done off campus.
It’s a vital step that helps the university not only combat the virus but also assist those who contract it.
“Whether they’re tested through William & Mary facilities or at their personal or third-party health care provider, ReportCOVID.wm.edu is how everyone should report a positive test or if they’re identified as a close contact,” she said. “That is critically important to William & Mary’s strategy for stopping the spread.”
For further information on COVID-19-related issues, including how to be tested and log your results, please visit please visit https://www.wm.edu/about/administration/emergency/current_issues/coronavirus/index.php.