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May 4, 2020 -- Even as some states begin to reopen parts of their economies, scientists can't say for sure which parts of the restrictions are most important. A new study announced Thursday by the City University of New York Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) hopes to help determine that.
Researchers say the study, named "Communities, Households, and SARS/COV-2 Epidemiology (CHASING) COVID," is designed to further our understanding of the pandemic — how it's affecting American life, how it's spreading, and whether efforts to slow the spread are working.
"For this pandemic and future pandemics where there is no vaccine or treatment, we need to understand which components of the public health response — like masks, stay-at-home orders, avoiding gatherings, and hand washing — are being taken up in communities and households, as well as which ones work best at reducing community transmission," says Denis Nash, PhD, executive director of ISPH and principal investigator of the study. "We also need to understand the impact of reopening society, and how the public health response adapts to what happens next with the pandemic."
For the study, Nash's team recruited more than 7,000 people from across the country, representing a diverse sample of the population. Roughly one-quarter are ages 60 and above; one-quarter are black or Hispanic; and just over half are men. At least one-quarter identified themselves as frontline workers in health care or other essential fields.
People taking part in the study will be contacted monthly for at least 6 months to assess what they're doing to control the epidemic: Are they wearing face masks, staying home, washing hands? They'll also be asked about COVID-related issues like any symptoms they may be having, testing and diagnosis, and health care access. Twice during the 6 months, participants will provide dried blood spot specimens, which ISPH will store until a proven antibody test is available.
The researchers will integrate publicly available data on population mobility, diagnoses, and deaths with the data they compile, which will allow them to determine how public health efforts affect the spread of the virus.
In addition, Nash expects the results to generate evidence about exactly which antibodies provide immunity, what measures might help address the racial and socioeconomic disparities in treatment and outcomes we've seen with COVID, and how the public health response is affecting things like mental health, food security, and domestic violence.
"Our study focuses on a wide range of things that aim to provide a more holistic view of the impact of the public health response beyond its direct impact on SARS/COV-2," he says.