Observational Studies – Inform COVID-19 Control Measures

Angie SzumlinskiFeatured, Studies

A year into the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic there remains an urgent need to limit severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spread and to curb the pandemic in the U.S. through non-pharmaceutical interventions. Clear evidence supports the effectiveness of simple strategies in identifying risks and mitigating the spread of infection, with much of this evidence coming from observational studies. Community risk factors for infection can be identified by comparing recent behaviors and exposures among people who have been infected with those who are not infected using a traditional case-control approach. High-risk environments identified from these investigations need to be clearly communicated to the public to support public health measures and motivate individual behavior change to reduce the risk of infection.

Approximately 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in the U.S. alone, and the pandemic continues to cause major personal, social, and economic consequences. The role of public health professionals is to provide science-based, data-driven recommendations in a timely manner to curb the pandemic spread and prevent disease and deaths. Often, decisions made with the intent to reduce the disease burden during a pandemic are made with incomplete information.

Effectiveness of mitigation strategies and adoption of recommended behaviors must be continually reevaluated throughout the pandemic, even as vaccination continues, and prevention strategies must be adapted to the current situation and local context, informed by local data, such as case-control investigations. A tremendous amount has been learned about SARS-CoV-2 transmission over the past year, and a great awareness of transmission dynamics, including the uneven spread of the virus within communities, can be used to guide targeted interventions and policies. Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!