UC joins national study on COVID-19 community impact

The University of Cincinnati is joining a nationwide study to examine the impact of COVID-19 on communities across the United States.

The Community Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Study (or COMPASS) is part of the efforts by the COVID-19 Prevention Network launched by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The NIH reached out to individual sites already involved in COVID clinical trials and asked us to participate in this next level of study,” says Margaret Powers-Fletcher, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine. “The goal is to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the communities where these interventional trials are happening so that we can understand the data from those trials and better plan future trials more effectively.”

Powers-Fletcher says the goal is to enroll 4,000 people in Cincinnati in the COMPASS study as part of a nationwide target of 66,000 enrollees. People enrolled in the study will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire, provide a small blood sample and have a nasal swab to test for COVID-19. Those actions will all take place in one site visit.

The test sites will be set up at a variety of public spaces and community venues and facilities established through partnerships across Cincinnati. Those locations will not be announced ahead of time.

A woman smiling at the camera standing on a pedestrian bridge in the CARE/Crawley Building at the UC College of Medicine

Margaret Powers-Fletcher, PhD, in the UC Division of Infectious Diseases. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

“The goal of not making prior announcements of the test site locations is to ensure that this is as random and unbiased of a population as possible,” says Powers-Fletcher. “If we were to announce the locations, there is the risk that the people who show up to participate may have risk exposures that are more or less than the general public. We want it to be as much of a snapshot of our community as possible.”

Once the partner sites are established, recruitment stations will be set up nearby. People will be recruited from each setting a few times a month, depending on the site, over the two-month course of the study. Powers-Fletcher says they are looking for participants aged two months and older. Study subjects will be broken down into a variety of age groups and receive a $25 gift card for taking part.

Powers-Fletcher is one of the principal investigators in the Moderna vaccine trial at UC, just one of many research projects involving COVID-19. She says the COMPASS trial continues to cement Cincinnati’s role in fighting the virus.

“We’ve been doing a lot of trials at UC and contributing to a lot of the work for individual solutions and those are all independently critical. This study is going to take a step back and look at the broader impact,” she says. “This is not necessarily a problem that can be solved universally across the country the same exact way. I think it’s so cool that Cincinnati is involved and there’s no one else in our region that is doing this. This helps put Cincinnati on the map. This gives our community a voice in the larger federal government response of how we’re approaching solutions and approaching research related to this pandemic.”

She says the response from the community to the Moderna trial was robust, and they had to turn away people who wanted to be part of it after recruitment target numbers had been met. This COMPASS study will give the community another opportunity to help out, she says.

“This study involves 4,000 people and we’re out in the community,” Powers-Fletcher says. “You don’t have to have had COVID and you don’t need to be hospitalized. The study requirements are not too much of an ask. Hopefully we’re out there being accessible and it’s a way that our community members get to be involved. And I think that’s another strong message here. It’s again another way to get to be part of the solution.”

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