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COVID-19 Survey Aims to Inform Local Decision-Making

by on May 22, 2020 1:51 PM

A project led by Penn State researchers is giving Centre County community members an opportunity to share their experiences with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to help inform local government policy decisions as the region moves forward.

The first phase of the Centre County COVID-19 Data 4 Action Project is an anonymous survey open to all adult residents of the county. The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and includes 20 questions about economic, employment and health impacts of the pandemic in Centre County.

Residents are asked to complete the survey by June 12 at, or by calling 814-753-4779, noon–7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“The project will enable the Centre County community to better understand the effects of COVID-19 on our region and how best we can chart the way forward," Michael Pipe, chair of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, said in a news release.

For every 100 individuals who complete the survey, Penn State will make a $100 donation to the Centre County food pantries, up to $10,000.

Meg Small, of Penn State's Social Science Research Institute, and Matthew Ferrari, associate professor of biology, will be working with local government and community groups over the next two years to quantify the myriad impacts of the pandemic in Centre County.

“It’s essential for leaders to hear the voices of as many community members as possible,” Small said. “The Data 4 Action community survey is a way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and allow them to participate in the decision-making process of our community and University.” 

A second survey will be conducted for Penn State students returning to campus and residents.

“As the students return to campus, and our regional population increases, Centre County will no longer be isolated from the coronavirus outbreak,” Ferrari said. “This project will allow us to follow changes over time, and help local government officials and Penn State administrators make decisions about the right actions to support the health and safety of Centre County residents and Penn State students."

Those who complete the surveys will have the option of providing contact information for potential future involvement the project, including virus and antibody testing. Contact information will be stored with a random ID number separate from survey answers and will only be accessible to Small and designated research staff.

“The voluntary biological survey will involve testing both before and after the University resumes operations,” Ferrari said. “We’d like to document social and economic impacts alongside biological data to provide guidance to our community leaders. Without an effort like this one, decision-makers are forced to make very important decisions about public health and safety in the dark. We want to bring local data to the table to inform local decisions.”

Results of the Data 4 Action Project will be summarized and provided to the community.

State College Mayor Ronald Filippelli urged all adult residents of the county to participate in the initial survey.

“It is extremely important for the residents of Centre County to complete this survey," Filippelli said. "I can’t stress that enough.”

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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