Residents near Esko and Mahtowa have been selected to participate in the Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER).

The voluntary, in-person survey will take place from Sept. 21-23 and will be led by the Minnesota Department of Health, according to a news release from Carlton County Health and Human Services.

MDH will select households at random to survey. Public health workers will conduct the survey, wearing vests and nametags that identify them as members of the MDH CASPER team, the news release said. Furthermore, their vehicles will have magnets on the side that say "COVID-19 Survey Team."

On the specified dates, the teams will visit homes in neighborhoods and will ring doorbells to ask residents to participate in the survey, according to the news release. Residents will not be notified in advance.

Each team has a health care professional hired by MDH who will conduct one of two COVID-19 tests:

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  • A nasal swab test to see if residents have COVID-19 now, or
  • A blood test where a nurse pricks a person's finger to take a few drops of blood. The blood test will determine if a person has already had COVID-19.

Each household will be asked to complete one survey. Participants will be asked for permission to do a nasal swab test and a blood test free of charge. Residents can refuse one or both of the tests.

The MDH lab will analyze the tests. A health care professional will sent results via text message to participants whose test results are negative, the news release said. If a resident tests positive, a health care professional will call with the results and to provide more information.

All health information collected during the survey is confidential, the news release said.

The modified CASPER survey gives officials working on COVID-19 response in Minnesota important information about the health needs of a given community, the news release said. Teams are surveying communities in six regions of the state.

The results will help MDH and local public health departments understand the spread of the virus; provide context to lawmakers for making decisions; help the MDH and University of Minnesota model the virus; and educate the public on the impact of COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Similar CASPER surveys have been conducted following hurricanes, oil spills and outbreaks of the Zika virus.

Anyone with questions should email health.serosurvey.c19@state.mn.us with questions.