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MDI Biological Lab tracing at-home COVID test results

Researchers wanted to create a platform for people to report their at-home test results anonymously but also be able to see the transmission rate in their community.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — While at-home COVID tests may be convenient, their results often go unreported. But now, Mount Desert Island's Biological Laboratory has a new program designed to track them. 

The lab launched a program on the mobile app and website, Anecdata, where people can fill out an anonymous survey about their positive or negative at-home COVID test results. 

Jane Disney, associate professor of environmental health at MDI Bio Lab, is one of the organizers who helped create this new program. 

"It occurred to us that people who were doing all of the home test kits, their data wasn't ending up anywhere that was useful to anyone," Disney said.

Alexis Garretson, community environmental health lab manager at MDI Bio Lab, came up with the idea to create a portal on their Anecdata website for the public to log this information. Anyone across the country can enter their information anonymously. 

"When there's this layer of anonymity, you're often able to be more honest or able to share your health information without really concerns that it'll come back on you in any way," Garretson said.

Garretson said the survey takes less than two minutes to complete. It asks questions about your city and state, symptoms, kit used, vaccination status, and masking habits. People can submit their results as frequently as they take tests. 

Garretson said all of this information is then made available to the public to help people better understand the current status of COVID in their community.

"It'll take a lot of data to really be able to parse all those things out, so we need lots and lots of people to participate," Disney said.

The researchers said reporting your negative at-home test results is just as important and valuable as reporting the positive results to help support their research about testing kits, symptoms, and transmission.

"We also would like to display some correlations between people's masking habits and COVID test types and whether they turned up positive or negative," Cait Bailey, a systems developer at MDI Bio Lab, said.

Bailey said those correlations would be displayed on the website once they receive more survey submissions from the community.

Garretson said people are not required to answer every question on the survey, but the more information they can provide, the more researchers can learn about the presence of COVID in Maine.

"The more data we have, the more questions we're going to be able to ask, and the more we're going to be able to understand COVID transmission in the state of Maine," Garretson said.

To access MDI Bio Lab's At-Home COVID test results survey, click here

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