B.C.’s online survey on people’s COVID-19 risk and exposure has more than 260,000 participants in the first week, and public health experts are examining the results for clues about how it affects different groups of people.
The anonymous survey is designed to measure how people have changed their habits due to the coronavirus pandemic, whether they have been exposed and how their age, ethnicity and place of residence may affect the spread of the virus in B.C. The survey, run by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, continues until May 31.
“We still would like to hear from more, particularly from more seniors, from people outside our major urban centres and people from different cultural backgrounds around the province,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in her COVID-19 daily briefing May 18.
There are also questions about exercise, sleep, food and alcohol consumption, chronic health conditions, disabilities, smoking and perceived changes in anxiety, depression or irritability since the pandemic began.
Henry said she has been asked why the survey includes age, sex, education level, income, and ethnicity.
“Unless you look at it from that perspective, you don’t know if there’s something we are missing about who is being affected, either in a positive or negative way, both by the virus and by the effects of the restrictions that have been put in place, so it is really important,” Henry said. “We know that there are associations between poverty and health. There are associations between certain ethnicity and racial groups that have had impacts on people’s health.”
Despite the notice on the BCCDC survey page that the website is not secure, the actual survey is run on a University of B.C. database designed for gathering confidential medical information for public health.
Any B.C. resident aged 18 or older can take the COVID-19 survey, with the option of doing so anonymously or providing a B.C. medical ID number confidentially for follow-up and possible antibody testing. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.
The survey ends with an option to join the COVID-19 Community Immunity Assessment by providing a blood sample to labs testing for the virus, which are adding antibody testing now that a test has been approved by Health Canada.
Participants can also sign up for the COVID-19 Early Warning Network, allowing them to notify public health officials of symptoms they experience, to more quickly identify regions of B.C. where public health measures can be taken to control future waves of infection.
The survey can also be taken over the phone between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-833-707-1900. Interpreting services for languages other than English are available, and the website has language guides in traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Farsi, French and Punjabi.