TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County is working to expand COVID-19 testing to the areas with the highest number of symptoms. They plan to do that with the help of a survey that county leaders say is crucial for everyone to fill out in order to be able to reopen.
The survey was developed by researchers at USF. It asks questions like whether or not you’ve had COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been in contact with someone who has, and it also asks you some questions regarding your location. That’s what county leaders say will help them find the hotspots.
“It’s a way of helping them target the testing and sort of know where the problems are. When you’re going fishing do you want to fish where the fish are,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished USF Health Professor.
Current maps, like the ones from the Florida Department of Health show the areas with higher positive COVID-19 cases. This survey is meant to supplement those maps, by taking into account the areas with higher symptoms.
“There’s been issues around the number of people who are able to be tested, you have to have a specific set of symptoms to be tested,” said Unnasch.
Identifying areas with higher symptoms, making rapid tests available to those people, and then tracing their contacts, are all steps White House officials say are crucial to implement before our states begin reopening.
“This is not something that we can do over the long term, the next stage, the next thing to do as we start to open up, we can identify where the cases are and then quarantine those new cases and the people they come in contact with, and then let the other 90% of the population try and get back to their life,” said Unnasch.
Hillsborough County is working to secure rapid tests by May 1st.
County leaders say while they work to implement the steps to reopening, businesses can work on their own plans for when that day comes.
“What the county is looking at is any business that wants help from the county to help them reopen is going to be required to use face coverings and appropriate actions in accordance with FEMA and the CDC," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman.
Overman says it is critical that all people in the county fill out the symptom surveillance survey so the county can deploy testing resources in the areas that pop up as hotspots for symptoms. With this, eventually the county would open back up.
So far, only about 1,500 people in the county have filled out the survey.
Overman says the EPG plans to send out the survey to all residents in Hillsborough County this week.
The USF survey is currently available across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, and Manatee counties.
To fill out the survey now, click here.