Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles In any fight, it's important to know your enemy. Unfortunately, in our battle against COVID-19, there's a lot we still don't know. How many people are infected with the virus, including those who don't show symptoms? Is it seasonal or weather dependent? When will it be safe to open the economy back up? A new virus tracking tool is helping researchers and data modelers better understand the virus and inform these public health decisions. It's called the Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, or SCAN. The goal of SCAN is to understand the extent of COVID-19 in our community. Think of the current pandemic like an iceberg. There's a part of the iceberg that's above the surface that you can see and there's potentially a much larger part of the iceberg underneath the surface that you can't see. With medical testing for COVID-19, what we're able to see is the part that's above the water. It continues to be a mystery how much is lurking underneath the surface. We don't have enough testing right now in the clinical health care delivery system to understand the full spectrum of disease: who's being infected and the SCAN project allows us to look beneath the tip of the iceberg to see how common this disease might be in the community that we're unaware of. With SCAN, we're not testing everyone. We're trying to representatively test individuals in our community and you can think about it like sonar pings: pinging to see what lurks beneath. One of the key questions that SCAN can help answer is what is the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst individuals who don't have any symptoms as well as those who may have symptoms too mild for them to necessarily show up at the ER or call their doctor. As we move forward, particularly transitioning from the current social distancing and stay-at-home policies to relax those policies a little bit and get back to work, it will be very important to monitor undetected infections. In order to participate in SCAN, individuals can go to the website at scanpublichealth.org, and register and have a kit sent to their house. When the swab kit arrives, you take that swab and you'd either swab yourself or swab your child and then you put it back in the box and then send it back to the lab. The advantages of being able to collect a sample at home include minimizing risk of exposure to health care workers as well as allowing us to capture people earlier in their illness when they're not necessarily sick enough to want to come in for care. I run the molecular testing lab that processes all of the specimens that are coming in from all of the participants. So, when they get mailed in, they come through my lab where we test them for the genome of the COVID-19 virus. My focus is on mapping the transmission of COVID over time. We take the data about who tests positive, where they live in a large geographic area, how old they are, and use statistical modeling to turn that into a picture of the intensity of COVID transmission in the Seattle metro area. We also get a lot of insight from the virus genomes. So we're able to see whether this infection is closely connected to this other infection. And if they're very diverse you know that there is a lot of community spread. If they're very closely related its more likely to be very small pockets of community spread. So, we can learn a fair amount from not a huge amount of sampling. The 21st century's greatest tool against viruses is going to be a better understanding of who is getting infected when and why, so we can just stop the transmission process in its tracks. SCAN is the first step in the U.S. towards having a better infrastructure to do that.