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Hi there! We have tried to summarize all relevant information in our list of frequently asked questions. If you are just joining our study you can find out more information under the “new to the study” section of this page. If you are a continuing participant and have questions about your results or your eligibility see the “continuing participant” section of this page. If you have questions about the kit you received please see the appropriate section. If you are unable to locate the answer to your question here please email our staff for the quickest response at covid19survey@berkeley.edu or leave a voicemail at (510) 643-0580.

New to the Study

While we have invited our first round of participants, we are still in the process of recruiting new volunteers. If you would like to participate in our study you can sign up https://publichealth.berkeley.edu/covid-19/survey/. At this time, only the person with the next birthday is eligible to participate. It is important for “randomizing” who gets selected within a household. If that person is not interested in participating, your household will not be eligible to participate.

Volunteers selected for the second phase of this study (which includes at-home oral, nasal, saliva, and blood sample collection) will be informed of their current infection status (done using a viral PCR test).

For the first at-home sampling, we will not be returning antibody test results to participants (indicating past infection). We are working to make this possible for future samplings (every 6-8 weeks). We will also share on our website the overall information and results obtained from both parts of the study, in a way that is not individually identifiable, as they become available.

We are asking for your consent to share your genetic data because we anticipate in the very near future we will be combining data from studies across the U.S. and globe to understand what makes certain individuals more resistant or susceptible to COVID-19. For example, scientists believe that variation in genes that regulate the immune system may explain the difference in symptom severity. Understanding biological variation will help guide disease prognosis, vaccine development and design of therapies to treat COVID-19. Data sharing is a requirement for most research funding agencies (example: the National Institutes of Health). Data sharing is important so your valuable information can best inform research and benefit the general population. The NIH strictly controls access to the databases with genetic data from study participants and has strict policies to protect the confidentiality of your information. The information provided to the NIH for use by other researchers does not include any identifying information about you (such as name, address, email etc.).  Any other researchers who apply for access to data must agree to protect the information with strict measures at their institutions before gaining access.

Yes. If you decide not to share your genetic DNA, you will not be excluded from the current study. There is a place in the consent form to indicate this. However, for the reasons above, we hope you will consider providing your data for larger future studies to help end this pandemic. When reporting test results to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), your genetic data will not be shared.

This study will not impact your ability to get life insurance. Currently, insurance companies can request medical records and use this information (including genetic data if it is in your medical record) to adjust premiums accordingly. No data from this study will be in your medical record or linked to your medical record in any way. Additionally, there is no way we would release any information to insurance companies.

If you were to visit a clinic and be tested for COVID-19, your results would be mandatorily reported to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The same law applies to our study.

When reporting your COVID-19 status, we share only the information necessary for public health officials to do their jobs (such as your name, contact information, age, sex, race, and test results). Your immigration status will never be shared or disclosed to anyone. Neither our study nor CDPH collects this information. The CDPH only uses your data for public health purposes, such as contacting you after a positive result, tracking the spread of coronavirus across the state etc. Your identifiable data is only available to public health staff. If your data is shared by the CDPH, it will be deidentified (your data is anonymous and does not include your name, contact info etc.).

By reporting to the CDPH, public health authorities are able to track the prevalence of COVID-19. The only reason we know about current levels of infection is because of this mandated reporting. These reports allow us to determine when we can reopen cities or need to tighten restrictions to protect our communities. There are many other diseases that if you tested positive your physician would be mandated to report such as any sexually transmitted disease or measles. Please understand this kind of data will be protected in ways similar to your medical records, not just anyone can access them.

Current participants

Upon completion of the questionnaire and return of your blood, saliva, and nasal swab samples, we expect to return test results within 5 business days (pending unforeseen circumstances).

Yes. If you are moving you can still participate as long as you live in the study region (Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, Kensington, Piedmont or Hercules). Every time we send you a kit we will  If you move outside the study region, your study participation will end accordingly. You can send us an email notifying us that you are moving out of the study region and we will remove you accordingly.

Please respond to this email with your return date to the Bay Area. If you plan on returning before November 1st, you will be included in this round of at-home testing. In order to process your delayed shipping, you must complete the follow-up study questionnaire and confirm your address. If you plan on returning after the1st, we will include you in the next round of at-home testing.

Kit Questions

We strongly encourage you to email our staff if you have kit related questions. When you email us it is easier for our staff to access your record to best provide you with the appropriate assistance. If you prefer to talk to someone you can leave us a voicemail at (510) 643-0580. Please consider that this is not a live line and we will try to return your phone call in 1–2 business days.

Do not drink water to help you generate your sample, this could result in an inconclusive sample. To generate more saliva, we recommend:

  • rubbing the exterior of your cheeks in slow circular motions
  • making chewing motions
  • smell a sour food such as a lemon
  • think of your favorite food.

If you received broken lancets or you were simply unable to get enough of a blood sample don’t worry. Do not attempt to prick yourself with anything else other than a sterile lancet, we do not recommend you to use any household items such as scissors, knives or needles. Hold onto your blood spot kit and return the rest of your kit without the blood spot as soon as possible. You can email our staff at covid19survey@berkeley.edu to ask for new lancets and we will send you new ones as soon as possible.

You should have received an email from covid19survey@berkeley.edu with a shipping confirmation. In this email you should have received a unique link to your version of the study questionnaire. If you are still unable to locate this link please email our staff at covid19survey@berkeley.edu

 

If you notice that your saliva kit has spilled in the kit do not attempt to use it. Please notify our staff at covid19survey@berkeley.edu that you have a spill in your kit, if possible include pictures. Our staff will replace the defective item. If the spill was contained to one bag feel free to use the rest of the kit and return it as soon as possible. If the spill was not contained to one bag and permeated the entire kit we will replace your kit entirely. In the event you come in contact with the solution in the kit ,wash your hands well for 20 minutes with soap and water. Do not use bleach.

Call poison control. To best communicate the situation, we suggest you have the following safety sheets handy to best explain the contents of the solution.

We understand that some people receive their kits Friday afternoon and may not be able to go to FedEx until Monday morning. In the event you cannot complete and return your kit in 24-48 hours, please ensure your kit is returned as soon as possible. We still want you to return the kit even if it is a little late.

 

We are partnering with an academic laboratory located in Minnesota to test your samples for coronavirus. This process does not include sharing your personal identifying information such as name or address, which remains secured only with investigators at UC Berkeley. This collaboration shortens the time it takes to process and analyze your samples and enables a much quicker return of current COVID-19 infection status to participants.

We apologize for this problem. We suspect the FedEx staff person has incorrect information. For this round we have included a clinical pak bag to put your box in which should reduce any problems with returning your kit. All materials are in biohazard bags inside the box and we have confirmed with FedEx that this is the correct packaging. Instead, you could try just dropping off the package at one of the FedEx dropoff locations, where you can return the box outside of a store. You can locate drop off locations here. Please email us and notify us which FedEx location refused to take your package. Under no circumstances should you attempt to return your package to the UC Berkeley campus. The package must be returned via FedEx. 

No, under no circumstances should you attempt to return your package to campus. Campus has a strict quota of how many people are allowed inside buildings and you must have special campus permission to be onsite. To ensure the safety of our essential staff and students, please respect the campus social distancing guidelines by not dropping your package off there. Due to these same guidelines, the number of our own staff is limited on campus. There is not necessarily a staff person available to retrieve packages personally delivered to campus. If you have other challenges returning the kit not mentioned below, please contact us and we will work to find a solution.