In March of 2020, I was tasked to be the non-commissioned officer in charge of contact tracing at West Point. The northeast had just entered lockdown and West Point was preparing a robust response to the COVID outbreak. In the space of a few days, I received training from West Point's public health staff, then trained my team of 14 contact tracers to safeguard West Point from the virus. I served in this role for the first three months of the pandemic.
Learn proper contact tracing techniques
Learn CDC guidelines for which contacts require tracing
Train team of 14 to properly carry out contact traces
Establish file handling and storage conventions to keep a high volume of documents organized
Designing a Tracker Accurate reporting of information to multiple entities became absolutely critical very quickly in the pandemic. Because of the many different agencies at West Point, groups use different technology systems, which made providing access to all stakeholders very challenging. I designed a simple tracker that accomplished the following:
Allow tracers to know which contacts they were responsible for each day
Allow public health to know who had been contacted and what the latest developments were
Allow West Point leadership to understand the number of active contacts at a glance to get a quick snapshot of cases in the West Point community
Allowed all stakeholders to view information, regardless of technology system, while safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) to protect privacy
As it became clear that contact tracing would persist for a year or more, we made significant improvements to policies and systems to make processes more robust and allow for the easy change off of personnel.
Authored standard operating procedures (SOP) for contact tracing at West Point. This SOP is largely still in use today, and was disseminated Army-wide as an example
Redesigned trace tracker for better data integrity
Integrated trace tracker with PowerBI dashboards to allow real-time reporting to senior leaders in briefings
Developed a robust training plan to hand off responsibility of contact tracing to a new cohort.
Lead with empathy. In an extremely uncertain time, it was critical to complete the mission, but also ensure that my team of tracers was being taken care of, both mentally and physically.
Make sure everyone across an organization has access to the same technology systems. Early in the pandemic, it was maddeningly difficult to synchronize files across different parts of West Point because of the use of disparate technology systems. If you have an organization that is split across multiple systems (Google, O365, etc.) and have put off combining to one because it is inconvenient, know that it will be far less convenient during an emergency.
Design can be applied to nearly anything. By applying strategic design principles to some very sticky problems, I was able to find good solutions that worked for a broad range of use cases.