The city of Rochester and Monroe County have partnered with Common Ground Health to roll out a new online symptom tracker for community residents. Officials on Thursday touted “ROC COVID” as a health screening tool that could help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 throughout the region.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello called the tool a “game-changer.”
“This groundbreaking daily health screening tool will be a frontline defense in the fight to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in Monroe County and across the Finger Lakes Region,” Bello said in Thursday’s briefing. “The data collected will not only help increase the understanding of the virus and measure effects to slow its progression but will also help determine where to focus testing and how to adjust stay at home and physical distancing.”
Bello said the online tool, found at roccovid.org, will only work if a critical mass signs up. The survey consists of a few questions that residents are encouraged to answer daily, even when they have no symptoms. Questions include whether they have a fever, a cough, chills or other primary coronavirus symptoms, as well as basic demographic information, including their ZIP code. Residents who participate will receive daily email reminders to take the survey, and a text version of the daily survey will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
“We know that the best way to deal with the fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis is with precise and accurate information, and that is exactly what the ROC COVID daily survey provides — a simple and easy way to share information about health. This data will allow us to understand where the virus may be in our community, and to quickly provide guidance to help us make sure that we are responding to the needs of our community,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “Help us help you by taking the survey every day. We need you and you need us and we need to get through this together.”
Collected data will be securely housed and analyzed by Common Ground Health, a regional health planning organization that serves the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.
Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood said the data will help the local government track hot spots and identify at-risk populations.
“We all can, and we all must participate because it can provide the data that can bring focus to our region’s efforts to pursue the path to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” Norwood said.
County Public Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza M.D. said the data that has been collected in the recent path such as hospitalizations and positive tests only speaks to the past. The surveys could help officials determine when the local economy can reopen.
“Our goal with this is to identify more of what’s happening today and yesterday,” Mendoza said. “I would be looking at this (new data) in a couple of ways. One is more of a way to know when we need to turn on the brakes. So if we start to see something blossoming in a particular part of the county and we do some focused testing, we do some outreach and we see some concerns there through contact tracing, that would be my indication to want to slow down potentially slow down the process (of reopening) or to make some recommendation to slow down the process.
“I view it more as brakes, rather than a gas pedal,” he said. “But certainly you can see it the other way; if things continue to be quiet with regard to the symptom tracker, and that correlates to what we’re seeing in terms of new cases and hospitalizations, then it would be further impetus to say we are ready. We are heeding the advice of maintaining physical distancing and all the other things we’ve been talking about.”
Scientists and information technology staff from the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health developed ROC COVID.
“With a low rate of COVID-19 infection across our region, most people are still potentially susceptible to the virus, and therefore we want to do everything we can to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases that places additional demands on health care resources and threatens our economic recovery,” URMC CEO Mark Taubman said. “ROC COVID uses a simple web-based tool that will allow our community to see if there are upticks in symptoms to identify potential COVID-19 hot spots, direct resources and ultimately help the community stay healthy and recover together.”
Added Rochester Regional Health CEO Eric Bieber: “One of the most important tools in the fight against any pandemic is timely access to data that allows for quick action to mitigate the spread and, ultimately, keep our communities healthy and safe. The ROC COVID health screening tool is another example of the region working together to harness the power of data to maintain vigilance in our shared response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
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