The Minnesota Department of Health is hoping to get a better idea of COVID-19's prevalence in Minnesota through a statewide survey that includes free testing for the virus.
MDH began conducting a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) survey on Sept. 14 and will continue it through Sept. 30.
“Through the CASPER survey, we hope to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading in Minnesota and how it is affecting people,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, MDH state epidemiologist said in a news release. “With a new virus, we have to learn as we go and adapt our response based on new data.
"Information we gather in this survey will allow us to refine our recommendations to best meet the needs of our Minnesota communities in the prevention of COVID-19,” Lynfield added.
The survey, which is voluntary, includes a household questionnaire and free virus and antibody testing for the virus that causes COVID-19.
There are five main goals of this survey. They are:
- To understand how COVID-19 has spread
- To understand what causes COVID-19 to spread in certain areas
- To explore how COVID-19 transmission and infection rates differ in different parts of Minnesota.
- To identify the percentage of people infected with COVID-19 but have no symptoms
- To improve health messaging and help stop COVID-19's spread
What to expect
Teams of health professionals who will be wearing facemasks, vests and badges identifying them as the MDH COVID-19 Survey Team will visit randomly selected homes in 180 preselected areas, based on census blocks, around the state.
They'll ask if the household wants to participate in the survey. If they agree, one member of the household will fill out a questionnaire and everyone who lives there, if they consent, can get tested to see if they currently have the virus (a swab test) and/or for antibodies to see if they already had the virus (a finger stick).
“We encourage people to participate in the survey if their household is selected. Along with being able to receive free, in-home testing for current and past COVID-19 infection, this is a unique opportunity for people to help us learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 and aid in our efforts to fight this pandemic,” said Lynfield.
Each household's survey and test results are kept private, and if anyone tests positive on either test they'll be notified by a nurse, who will provide more information.
This CASPER survey was developed by the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention as an evidence-based tool to assess community needs. It's been used in other public health emergencies, including the Zika virus outbreak and after hurricanes and oil spills.
Minnesota is among several other states that are also doing COVID-19 CASPER surveys. The state is paying for the survey with COVID Relief Funds MDH received to conduct the CASPER survey and other studies.