Meet SUNY New Paltz’s contact tracers

Athletic trainers turned contact tracers Allison Lindsay and Bryan Lurie (left), with former athletic director Stuart Robinson and current assistant athletic director Danielle Strauchler (right).

Allison Lindsay and Bryan Lurie, athletic trainers in the Department of Athletics, Wellness & Recreation, are at the center of SUNY New Paltz’s process of contact tracing those who have been diagnosed with or possibly exposed to Covid-19.

There are common misconceptions about what sets athletic training apart from other forms of training, coaching and therapy that take place in collegiate sports. Athletic training is a healthcare profession that focuses on preventing, treating and rehabilitating athletes’ injuries and other medical conditions.

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“If a student has an injury, we take their history, we do the evaluation and we manage their treatment, in coordination with the Health Center and orthopedists we partner with,” Lurie said.

Diagnostic interviewing is a key component of athletic training. That experience makes Lindsay and Lurie a natural fit for Covid-19 contact tracing, which similarly involves asking questions, consistent follow-ups, monitoring symptoms, creating documentation, and protecting confidentiality. Both processes also require professionals who can establish trust in situations when anxieties are running high.

“We’re used to working with athletes who are very motivated to compete and who may not want to say anything about an injury that would prevent them from competing,” Lindsay said. “We join them in that moment, create a rapport, educate them. and help them navigate their initial emotions, so they can move on to practical next steps and feel like it’s going to be okay.”

The process only works when those being traced adopt a community mindset and speak truthfully about where they’ve been and with whom. Lindsay and Lurie say the students they’ve worked with thus far this semester have been incredibly cooperative and upfront. Successful contact tracing has been one of the keys of the college’s relatively low incidence of coronavirus infection.

“We wouldn’t be getting the results we’re getting if students weren’t doing their part,” Lindsay said. Contact tracers at SUNY New Paltz serve as an important connecting hub between students and officials at the Ulster County Department of Health who have been tasked with reporting Covid-19 data to state and federal agencies. In some cases, they do “detective work” to track down students when all we have is a first name or hall of residence.

“This work is different from what we do as athletic trainers in some ways,” Lurie said, “but ultimately we just want to make sure everyone’s okay.” The new role comes with new pressures, but they’re doing their best to adapt to realities posed by the pandemic.

“Like anyone else, we wish we could be doing our normal thing, but no one is doing their normal thing right now,” Lindsay said. “This is what we do as athletic trainers all the time: We look at a dynamic situation, and we problem solve.”

To find information about SUNY New Paltz’s testing, tracing and quarantine policies, visit www.newpaltz.edu.