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City health officials want to hear from people with negative COVID-19 tests

Last Updated Jan 14, 2021 at 2:23 pm EDT

A Toronto Public Health sign is seen at Dundas and Victoria streets on Aug. 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Toronto Public Health is launching a new study that will focus on people who have tested negative for COVID-19.

Calling it a “new approach for public health units in Canada”, the agency says it wants to compare the activities of people who test positive to those who tested negative in similar settings such as work environments, living arrangements and public spaces.

“These comparison data will help us understand how different behaviours, settings and activities can increase a person’s risks for becoming infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s Medical Officer of Health.

“The information will then be used to identify which activities and settings place the individuals who contracted COVID-19 at increased risk of infection, where they may have been exposed to the virus and inform actions.”

People who have tested negative will receive a text message (1-833-929-2338) and a link to a survey, which will collect data about their activities in the days before getting a COVID-19 test. These are similar questions asked of people who eventually test positive as part of contact tracing efforts.

Officials say the information collected will help inform decisions about how best to protect people and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“When it comes to fighting COVID-19, knowledge is power,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, the chair of the Board of Health. “Understanding why some people who may have been exposed to the virus but do not contract COVID-19 is as important as understanding why others do become ill.”

Participants who get the text are asked to complete the survey no later than three days after receiving it.

The City says all responses will be kept confidential and only summary level data will be reported.