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St. Louis County, WashU launch phone survey to track COVID-19's impact

Participants will be asked a variety of questions and can either get a COVID-19 or antibody test. Officials are hoping to survey 5,000 county residents

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Thousands of St. Louis County residents will help researchers gauge just how prevalent COVID-19 is in the county – and it’ll all start with answering a phone call.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced the new partnership with Washington University Monday morning. They’re teaming with other local public health officials and providers to survey up to 5,000 county residents, who will be randomly selected.

The 30-minute survey will include questions about age, race and gender and how the coronavirus has affected participants.

Participants also will get either a free COVID-19 test or antibody test, transportation to and from the testing location and a Visa gift card for their time. If a participant tests positive, they’ll get free follow-up care, a thermometer, a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels in the blood, a face mask and hand sanitizer.

If county residents see “COVID19 STL Survey” pop up on their caller ID, they’re encouraged to answer and participate, no matter whether they’ve had any coronavirus symptoms.

“The information they provide and the testing will be vital in helping us understand the impact of the pandemic in our region. We won’t know the extent of COVID-19 cases in the region without testing a random sample of the population,” said Dr. William Powderly, director of Washington University’s Institute for Public Health and co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine.

St. Louis County and WashU said the survey will help them determine the following:

  • The proportion of residents who have had the virus compared with how many have been tested.
  • How the virus has affected residents’ health and well-being.
  • How best to address disparities between racial groups as they pertain to COVID-19.
  • Which risk factors are most commonly associated with COVID-19.
  • Preventive and/or mitigation measures regarding the virus.

“This project will be instrumental in helping us make service delivery decisions that ease the stress and suffering for residents in the county – especially for those most affected,” said Spring Schmidt, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

County officials stressed no personal information about participants will be released to the public and the project is not linked to any clinical trials going on in the area.

The project will cost $1.99 million and is being paid using St. Louis County CARES Act funding.