DC-area volunteers wanted for study understanding spread of COVID-19

Workers in PPE are seen at the Judiciary Square COVID-19 testing site in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 18, 2020. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The search is on for up to 60,000 local people willing to participate in a COVID-19 study designed to give scientists a better understanding of how the disease spreads and how people might stay safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded Medstar Health $1.7 million to conduct the two-year study in the D.C. area, a large multi-site effort led by Wake Forest Baptist Health.

“We can’t have good public policy without good data, and this study is going to be critical to understanding the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and also personal behaviors and how people act to remain safe and prevent the spread of the disease,” said Dr. William Weintraub, a co-principal investigator of the study and the director of outcomes research, Medstar Heart and Vascular Institute.

As COVID-19 vaccinations reach the general public in the long months ahead, the research will track the health of study participants via email.

Participants will answer questions each day, including whether they have a cough, if they were in the presence of someone with COVID-19 and whether they were wearing a face mask.


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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


“For this to work, it is critical to have as many people as possible in the study…most people will have what’s called symptomatic surveillance. We’ll be studying them every day to see if they develop symptoms, also if they’ve been given a diagnosis of COVID-19, if they’ve been exposed to it and also if they’ve been vaccinated against it,” Weintraub said.

There will also be a subset to the study involving blood testing to see if participants have developed antibodies to the novel coronavirus.

“It’s really easy to join the study. Everything is done from the comfort and safety of participants’ homes. This was really important to us as a research team that everything could be done safely during the pandemic,” said Dr. Kristen Miller, co-principal investigator and director of the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, Medstar Institute for Innovation.

Residents, regardless of their COVID-19 status, are invited to sign up for the study on the MedStar website.

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