University of Vermont Assistant Research Professor Christine Vatovec has designed a survey and research study to better understand how people are responding to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Vatovec is part of the Vermont Initiative for Biological and Environmental Surveillance, aka VIBES, a collaborative group including university faculty and wastewater directors from Vermont municipalities and officials. VIBES, formed in late 2020, includes faculty from St. Michael’s College, the University of Vermont and Norwich University, which developed the interdisciplinary Wastewater-Based Epidemiology Initiative in the fall.
The Wastewater-Based Epidemiology Initiative, led by Dr. Tara Kulkarni, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Global Resilience and Security, tests campus wastewater for genetic markers of the novel coronavirus. Communications Lecturer Dr. Stephen Pite and Chemistry Lab Coordinator and Lecturer Marie Agan are other faculty leading the project, which involves civil engineering; construction management; chemistry and biochemistry; and humanities students.
VIBES, formed in late 2020, includes faculty from St. Michael’s College, the University of Vermont and Norwich University.
The wastewater testing, which complements the university’s testing protocols, by which every student, faculty member and staff member are tested at least once weekly, can act as an early detection system to portend spikes in positive COVID-19 cases.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said wastewater testing can portend COVID-19 outbreaks by up to seven days before confirmed cases appear in public health data. Several universities and municipalities nationwide have launched similar initiatives.
The VIBES survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, is anonymous and won’t ask for identifying information. It gauges feelings about COVID-19 protocols, including mask wearing, physical distancing and travel restrictions and how people are learning about them.
To join the survey, participants must be 18 or older, live primarily in Vermont or have traveled to Vermont during the pandemic. At the end of the survey, participants who so wish may complete a separate survey with name and contact information to be entered into a drawing for one of 10 $25 gift cards from Vermont businesses. To protect participants’ confidentiality, all data will be stored on an encrypted, password-protected server; only the research team will have access.
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