The University of Toledo is leading an effort to collect data about suspected mild and moderate local cases of COVID-19 in the Toledo region through an online survey developed by researchers in the College of Health and Human Services.
The project, which is being done in partnership with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, will provide clearer insight on community spread of the disease and assist public health officials with their planning efforts now and in the future.
“This will give us as a community the ability to respond in an intelligent manner to what our needs are,” said Dr. Joseph Dake, professor and chair of the School of Population Health who is leading the data collection effort from UToledo.
The online survey collects information about an individual’s symptoms, pre-existing health conditions and social distancing activities, as well as contact information for potential follow up. It also directs them to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s symptom checker, which helps guide individuals toward decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.
“The benefit of doing a community surveillance like this is that it does help to flatten the curve through helping to inform people about what they should be doing,” Dake said. “It’s not going to completely stop COVID-19 from spreading, but we can slow it down a little bit. We recognize that testing and other resources are limited at the moment, but by collecting this information now, we’re better setting ourselves up for the future as more tools become available.”
The survey went live March 31.
“Amazing people do amazing things during a crisis and exceptional institutions go beyond expectations. Dr. Dake and The University of Toledo under Dr. [Sharon L.] Gaber’s leadership, has shown this to be true,” said Eric Zgodzinski, health commissioner at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.
Additionally, a number of UToledo graduate students working toward a Master in Public Health degree have been trained to help the health department perform confirmed case interviews, which are required after someone tests positive for COVID-19.
Those calls — which are done remotely — include a series of questions about symptoms and contact individuals have had since they became ill. Volunteers then call each of those people to let them know they may have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. About a dozen M.P.H. students have been trained at this point and a call has gone out for additional students studying public health and health education to volunteer.
Steps also are being taken to train students from the College of Nursing to make confirmed case interview calls.
“A high priority for us is to help the community deal with this crisis in any way that we can.” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing. “This opportunity allows our students to both get valuable experience and serve the community in a meaningful way.”