The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest philanthropic foundation in the world, has awarded a grant to COVID-19 Citizen Science investigators at UCSF to study how COVID-19 spreads in communities around the country and the world, how certain preventive behaviors such as hand washing and mask wearing affect COVID-19 outcomes, and to pilot test home-based sample collection that may ultimately be used for rapid COVID-19 diagnostic testing. As part of this work, we are partnering with New York City Health and Hospitals and Advocate Aurora Health, as well as the University of California, San Diego.
There is an urgent need to understand and track how COVID-19 spreads in communities. Shelter-in-place and social distancing policies across the US are suppressing spread of the infection for now, but when the crest of the first wave of the epidemic has passed and these policies are loosened, the infection will once again spread if we do not have proactive and carefully-designed surveillance, screening, testing, quarantine and contact tracing procedures in place. We envision that syndromic surveillance and home-based testing will become critically important tools for policymakers and public health officials, but how these tools should be used in the US and around the globe is now quite unclear. Viral symptoms are common in the general population, and it is unknown what symptom clusters are most likely to indicate COVID-19 infection, how often asymptomatic infection occurs, how much immunity is conferred by different antibody profiles, what patient characteristics might predispose to severe disease, what biomarkers might indicate predisposition to severe COVID-19, or how to construct rational and efficient syndromic surveillance programs.
THANK YOU to all of our Citizen Scientists for contributing to this important work!