COVID-19 is a strange and sneaky virus, and some people have it without knowing it or displaying any symptoms.

In an effort to better understand the prevalence of the virus, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is conducting a voluntary, door-to-door survey at random households in the area.

On Sept. 28-30, public health surveyors will be working in Ponsford, Osage, Dorset, Park Rapids, Bemidji, Shevlin, Red Lake, Fosston, East Grand Forks and McIntosh, among other areas.

Monday through Wednesday, look for public health workers wearing colored vests, gloves, masks, and badges identifying them as members of the MDH COVID-19 Survey Team.

Surveys will also be conducted in in Detroit Lakes, Hitterdal, Fergus Falls, Moorhead, Motley, Alexandria, Barnesville, Long Prairie, Staples, Breckenridge, Nisswa and Brainerd, among other places.

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The modified Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) survey will include a household questionnaire as well as free virus and antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The goals of the survey are as follows:

  • Understand how COVID-19 has spread in Minnesota communities.

  • Understand what caused COVID-19 to spread in certain areas.

  • Explore how COVID-19 transmission and infection rates differ among regions in Minnesota.

  • Identify the percentage of people infected with COVID-19 that have no symptoms.

  • Improve health messaging and help stop COVID-19 spread.

The survey results will be available in about three weeks and will help public health workers, and others who are part of the COVID-19 response, make decisions that best meet the needs of each community affected by COVID-19, according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Participants with positive results for either test will be contacted by a nurse to receive additional information. All questionnaire responses and results will be kept private.

“We encourage people to participate in the survey if their household is selected. Along with being able to receive free, in-home testing for current and past COVID-19 infection, this is a unique opportunity for people to help us learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 and aid in our efforts to fight this pandemic,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, MDH state epidemiologist.

The CDC developed this CASPER approach as an evidence-based tool to assess community needs. The tool has been used to collect household information during public health emergencies such as hurricanes, oil spills and the Zika virus outbreak. Several other states are also conducting COVID-19 CASPER surveys.

The survey is funded through COVID Relief Funds that MDH received to conduct this survey and other studies.

For more information about this study, visit CASPER: COVID-19 Public Health Survey at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/casper.html.