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Champaign-Urbana Public Health District building

Expert Q&A: Libeth Rosas of CUPHD

The College of Applied Health Sciences has experts in many areas that have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Periodically we will ask these experts about how their areas of expertise have been impacted and what we can expect in a post-COVID-19 world. Today, we ask Libeth Rosas, an alum of the Master of Public Health program in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, about working in the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

Q: You were hired as a family educator and case manager. With the COVID-19 outbreak, you've transitioned to a new role. What is it?

A: So currently, I'm still doing my original case manager, family educator role. So I'm still keeping close contact with my families, with my clients that I have on my caseload. But I'm also being called to work for the EOC, which is the Emergency Operation Center here at CUPHD. And that's where I do the contact tracing. And also, we have a phone bank, so anyone who calls our hotline number for the coronavirus, I answer phone calls as well.

Q: Tell me about the contact tracing. Are you following up with people you know have COVID-19?

A: Yeah. So I guess the initial step, from my understanding—when we do get a new confirmed, case those go directly to our communicable disease investigators. So there's a couple of people that do that. And they're the ones who initially contact the confirmed case.

So after that, they call the individual and ask them a few questions. It's almost like an interview. And based off of those answers, that's how we identify the close contacts for that confirmed case.

So once we do identify those other individuals, that's when it's handed over to the contact tracing team. So that's our role, to notify these people that they've been identified as a close contact, and we can tell them to quarantine. And we continue following up with them and making phone calls every day, just to keep track that they don't develop any symptoms of COVID-19.

Q: The MPH program deals with current, real-world health issues. What did you learn in your time as a student that you can apply to your job?

Yeah, I think the MPH program really gave me a foundational and theoretical framework to be able to understand the current situation that we're in. I would say, through epidemiology and biostatistics, I really gained an understanding of what can we expect through a pandemic or through an outbreak.

And I think it also really helped me to understand how our health care system works and the current trends in the United States. So honestly, it's no surprise that we're leading with the amount of cases here in the US. I think we can see a lot of similar track with other health indicators. So it definitely gave me that background and understanding of what to expect during these times.

Q: In your role at CUPHD, part of it is informing the public with guidelines about social distancing, etc. What are some of the best practices about mitigation you can share?

A: I think social distancing is really important, and just making sure that you're six feet away from others. Definitely right now, we're really telling everyone to stay home as much as possible, and if they do want to go out, to wear a face mask. A lot of people have been wearing cloth masks. And that's just to keep yourself from spreading germs to others. So we're definitely encouraging that.

Frequent handwashing is a big one. Also, just cleaning commonly touched areas, like doorknobs or countertops or places where you constantly are touching. That's really helpful as well.

Q: You were hired to work with families, particularly women with infants. Are you finding that role is melding with your COVID-19 role?

A: I think it's really interesting. So I do have the work with clients that I'm working with. And I think for most of them, since many are stay-at-home moms, there's a pocket of clients who, not a lot has changed for them. This is kind of their normal life. They usually stay home and take care of their babies.

But there's also those families who do have multiple children, and now they're having to deal with home-schooling them. So it's just an added stress for them. And when kids are home, they're eating more frequently. So I think a lot of families are asking about, where can they find food assistance or school supplies, things of that nature, because it's really different for them, and they don't know how to deal with it.

And I think CU has done a really good job of coming together and offering a lot of options for kids to eat. But I also do think that families can need that additional support. And they are struggling, and they're trying to figure out how to navigate it. So I guess it depends on the family and their individual needs.

Q: Do you think that going forward, people will be more diligent about handwashing, social distancing, even post-COVID-19?

Yeah, I really hope so. I think handwashing is something we've always encouraged and everyone should be doing. But I really hope that people are more mindful and cautious about it now. Especially since we don't have a vaccine yet, I think it'll be really hard to contain unless people are practicing social distancing and are being mindful of handwashing.

Q: How soon do you think we could resume a "normal" life?

A: I think it's hard to really put a time frame for it, given that we're constantly learning new things about the virus, and things are constantly changing. Hopefully in a few months, but all I can say is, it's going to be a long haul. We just have to stick together and really be mindful and really practice social distancing for now.

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