Minnesota begins COVID-19 survey to find hot spots and gauge spread

    Healthcare workers screen a patient for COVID-19 at a drive-through coronavirus testing site on March 18 in Virginia. Photo by Getty Images

    The Minnesota Department of Health began a two-week survey of randomly selected households across the state on Monday to gauge the spread of COVID-19 and identify potential hot spots.

    Teams of health officers will visit pre-selected households and ask residents to participate by filling out a questionnaire and taking free COVID-19 tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and antibodies.

    “We encourage people to participate in the survey if their household is selected,” MDH state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said in a statement. “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.”

    Minnesota is one of several states to conduct the survey and hopes to learn what causes COVID-19 to spread in certain areas, identify the percentage of people infected who have no symptoms and improve health messaging.

    Positive cases in Minnesota continue to steadily increase, with 432 new cases and 5 new deaths reported on Tuesday. More than 85,000 Minnesotans have tested positive for the virus and nearly 2,000 have died, with the vast majority of fatalities among people living in long-term care or assisted living facilities.

    The survey is being conducted in partnership with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using a system that has been deployed to survey public health following emergencies like hurricanes, oil spills and the Zika virus outbreak.

    Only households which are selected may participate in the survey. People who want to be tested for COVID-19 can find a location here.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.