UH survey aims to pinpoint infected COVID hot-spots statewide


While the state Department of Health has been reporting daily positive COVID-19 test numbers by county and statewide, a new initiative by University of Hawaii researchers aims to pinpoint coronavirus hotspots, and they’re relying on community participation to do it.

The university researchers say Hawaii needs to better identify critical areas where more priority or better containment needs to be done, and that the community themselves hold the answers.

Places like South Korea and Singapore have been tracking the spread of COVID-19 down to the neighborhood, street, even individual level. Now the University of Hawaii’s National Disaster Preparedness Training Center is building a similar model here in Hawaii, starting with an online survey.

This one drills as far down as the closest intersection to your residence.

“It involves basically identifying people that may have been exposed to the coronavirus and then tracking their movements and who they may have come in contact with,” explains Karl Kim, Ph. D., a UH professor and director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center. “We look at this as information that can help us provide some type of early warning.”

More than 2,000 have already filled out the online questionnaire in just days since the weekend launch. Click here to review and fill out the survey.

“We believe the community knows a lot, so we’re trying to reach out to the community to get additional information,” Kim said. “It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s anonymous and hopefully we can use this information to identify hot spots and locations where the diseases may be in our community and where it may spread.”

It’s all voluntary and online.

“We’re asking people if they have a confirmed case of the coronavirus? Has someone in their household tested positive? Do you have any of the symptoms of the coronavirus? Have you traveled from places, high risk places with lots of confirmed cases?” Kim explained.

KHON2 asked more about assurances of protecting anonymity of the participants.

“We would never give specific addresses or location,” Kim said. “We have protocol in place to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of sensitive information.”

Part of that protocol includes oversight of the university’s Institutional Review Board.

“We are in contact with others throughout the nation who are involved in this type of research,” Kim said. “Traditionally we would do this based on confirmed medical tests, but because of the limitation of testing capabilities and also how late we’re getting started in this, and also how quickly the disease is spreading, we need additional data and information.”

KHON2 asked how they plan to begin sharing the data or visualizing results for the community.

“Part of it is we have to get enough people to participate in the questionnaire and the survey,” Kim said. “We’re definitely going to map this and try to identify hot spots and locations.”

The researchers say even if you are well, go ahead and take the survey.

“We are tracking the time that people submit their responses so we can look at old data versus new data, and it’s okay if people resubmit if conditions change,” Kim said.

We’ll continue to follow up as they publish maps and updates about what hot spots they’re finding.

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