MPC Funding for COVID-19 Rapid Response Projects

As part of the University of Minnesota Rapid Response to COVID-19, MPC is matching funding for members who are taking on COVID-19 research. We wish we had the capacity to fund every request – but we are excited to announce the first grants approved.

MPC Member: Ryan Demmer

Asymptomatic COVID-19 surveillance and transmission among the healthcare workforce

The goal of this proposal is to set up a pilot and feasibility study necessary to establish surveillance of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) carriage among healthcare workers in Minnesota. Early evidence suggests that ~50% of transmission occurs from asymptomatic individuals.1-4 Understanding this dynamic among healthcare workers is extremely important for informing infection models to support decision making in response to the pandemic. However, to date, most states have limited testing capacity and are focusing only on high risk symptomatic individuals and therefore ignores asymptomatic carriers. Importantly, our healthcare workforce will become essential to an effective pandemic response but asymptomatic carriage among individuals who will be in contact with many uninfected patients and family members creates a significant vulnerability for propagation of COVID-19 even in the face of significant social distancing. To address this issue, in collaboration with the Knight Lab at the University of California San Diego, we propose to conduct sentinel surveillance to inform asymptomatic infection prevalence over time among healthcare workers and subsequent transmission dynamics. Specifically, we will establish an infrastructure to test 500 healthcare workers over the course of one month; scale up will follow pending additional funding.

MPC Member: Ruby Nguyen

Optimal Procedures for Providing Effective Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Minnesota During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The overall aim of this study is to determine the optimal procedures for providing effective domestic violence services in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic. This goal will be achieved with 3 sub-aims: 1) Conduct a needs assessment of the domestic violence service agencies to address issues identified in the previous Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) needs assessment of only agencies servicing sexual exploitation/trafficking (conducted among 27 grantees of the MDH Safe Harbor program); 2) Collect statewide data on the temporal changes in the number and types of requests for assistance, including the incidence of gender-violence; and 3) Develop recommendations on optimal procedures to provide effective services for the remainder of the pandemic, and immediately afterward with the depletion of current resources. This study will inform agencies throughout the state, and provide legislators data and recommendations for future funding of these essential services.

MPC Member: Susan Marshall Mason

Rapid Deployment of School-based Mental Health Providers During the COVID-19 Crisis

School-based mental health providers (SBMHPs), including social workers, psychologists, and counselors, are an untapped resource for supporting families during this time of school closures and distance learning.

Led by Susan M. Mason, PhD, MPH, assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, this study aims to establish the acceptability and preliminary efficacy of two brief SBMHP-provided interventions that could be widely disseminated and quickly deployed by schools to improve family wellbeing.