MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The fight against COVID-19 in Minnesota might be coming to your front door.

The Minnesota Department of Health is doing at-home visits to better understand the virus’s impact in our state. The study is a version of Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) and has support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The teams visiting homes are like census takers in bright orange vests and face masks. But instead of asking basic questions about your household, they’re focused on how COVID-19 has affected your life.

Health officials plan to visit thousands of homes across the state, hoping at least 1,200 of them have people willing to participate in a voluntary survey. The participant would also take a COVID-19 test, either the nasal swab to check if a person has it now or the antibody blood test to see if they had it in the past.

Stephanie Yendell is a senior epidemiology supervisor at MDH.

“This is really going to help us understand how COVID-19 has spread in Minnesota communities, and especially how that differs from one region to the next,” Yendell said.

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The potential homes visited are based on census blocks then selected at random. Teams will be visiting 30 areas each in six regions of the state.

The survey includes questions like why or why not someone wears a mask, and whether they postponed preventative care due to the virus.

Willing participants must sign and consent form. Their information will be kept private. Yendell said an institutional review board “looked at our procedures to make sure that we are protecting the participants and protecting the privacy of those participants.”

One homeowner told WCCO he felt the visit from MDH was invasive and went against social distancing practices. His family declined to participate, which is always an option.

“We also absolutely respect that some people might not be comfortable right now having someone come to their door,” Yendell said. “If they decline to participate, then our team will say thank you and move on to another house.”

MDH is also seeking feedback on how it releases COVID-19 info and data. The team WCCO followed in Cannon Falls learned people want to know where cases are by city, not just county.

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The study started Sept. 14 and runs through the end of the month. Click here for more information.

Jeff Wagner