TAMPA, Fla. -- Researchers with the University of South Florida are still asking for the public's participation in their "COVID-19 Associated Symptom Surveillance System."
It was launched last month with the aim of identifying hot spots in Tampa Bay, including those that may be in more need of access to testing, and using data to predict what the virus will do next.
"We definitely want people to continue taking the survey," said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, co-director of the Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease Research at USF's College of Public Health and a distinguished professor with the university. "The reason for that is that we've now really, as people know, are starting to open up, and we're past the first wave. One of the most important things moving forward to control any big second wave that may develop is we're going to have to be able to identify hot spots and get in and control the infections in the hot spots as they develop."
Unnasch said as of the end of last week, more than 8,500 people had taken the survey, which asks questions about participants' symptoms and where they live. He said so far, areas in which survey participants are reporting that they're either experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive for the virus correspond with those spots that have higher amounts of confirmed cases.
Two areas he gave as examples of hot spots according to survey responses are the 33612 zip code in Hillsborough County near USF and the area to the north in the 33647 zip code.
"There's actually a greater capacity now for testing than they actually are seeing people showing up to be tested," Unnasch explained. "So, I think now, starting to move forward, this is going to become a lot more important to allow the city and the health departments to really target the areas where there may be activity."
Since its launch, the system has expanded to include collecting data from Pasco and Polk Counties in addition to Hillsborough and Pinellas. Unnasch stressed it's important for those who aren't experiencing any symptoms to respond to the survey, as well. He also encouraged caution.
"We are opening up, but please stay safe. All of us are involved in this together, and we still need to be careful and be safe and try to do what we can to minimize the transmission of this thing," he said.
Click HERE to participate in the survey.