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ROC COVID-19 group ends daily pandemic health screenings, for good reason

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If you signed up to participate in ROC COVID-19 daily online health screenings, you may have received an email this week saying that they will no longer be monitoring COVID-19 symptoms.

The screenings began in April 2020 as a way to track the spread of the coronavirus in the greater Rochester region and its symptoms.

After 18 months of collecting data, the group of health care professionals and community leaders, which included University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester Regional Health and Common Ground Health, decided to stop the daily surveys.

Albert Blankley, Common Ground Health’s chief operating officer, said the advancements in data collection since the beginning of the pandemic has made their approach a bit dated.

“Looking at symptoms is just not as relevant of an indicator anymore,” Blankley said.

He said with the availability of various COVID tests, vaccination, and hospitalization data, scientists and researchers now have access to all the information they need. However, he said the information collected proved beneficial to the cause. 

“That data was a piece of the puzzle to help make decisions as to where we were going to set up testing spots, and eventually where we were going to think about vaccination clinics,” Blankley said.

Over 60,000 people across the region participated in the screenings, and the group collected over 7 million surveys. Blankley said the data collected also helped health officials identify COVID hot spots, surges and racial disparities.

“Knowing what we knew, which was that this pandemic was hitting communities of color particularly hard, we were able to show that in the data as well,” said Blankley, who added that other researchers and scientists are interested in using the ROC COVID screenings as a model for future studies.

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.