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Published on: May 20, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented disruption to Centre County, impacting every aspect of our daily lives and economic well-being. A new project will give a voice to community members, allowing them to share their experiences and impact decision-making as the region moves forward.

The first initiative of the Centre County COVID-19 Data 4 Action Project (Data 4 Action) is to conduct an anonymous survey, which will document how the pandemic is impacting Centre County residents’ lives and their experiences they as return to work and school.

“It’s essential for leaders to hear the voices of as many community members as possible,” said Meg Small of the Social Science Research Institute. “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.”

Small, and Matthew Ferrari, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences Career Development Professor and associate professor of biology, are working with local government and community groups to understand and quantify the range of impacts of the pandemic on Centre County — including health, economic, educational, social and other impacts — right now and over the next two years.

According to Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe, the best way to confront this pandemic is by using data and science to inform decision-making.

“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," said Pipe.

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

The survey is accessible online or by phone; confidential; and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It includes 20 questions about the economic, employment and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on Centre County. Adult residents, including Penn State students with permanent residency in Centre County, are encouraged to take the survey at, or by calling 814-753-4779, noon–7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A second survey for both students returning to campus and residents will track the changing impact over time.

“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.”

Additionally, participants may be invited to participate in a follow-up multi-year study designed to collect additional data, including virus and antibody testing. This information will help local leaders to stay more informed while making public health policy decisions as the pandemic continues to evolve.

“The voluntary biological survey will involve testing both before and after the University resumes operations,” said Ferrari. “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, decisionmakers 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.”

The Data 4 Action Project results will be summarized and provided to the community and University.

“We want to use our expertise and our world-renowned research centers to move the community forward as safely as possible during these unprecedented times,” said Ferrari.

The project is being supported by Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

News Topics: COVID-19, Huck, CTSI