COVID-19 SYMPTOM STUDY
22, 2020, Toronto
of COVID-19 symptoms in Ontario households is now characteristic of one in
seven (15%), down from one in five (19%) one week ago.
key symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough and shortness of breath, are
characteristic of just 1-in-20 households (5%) compared to more one week ago
in twenty households now has a member who's been tested for COVID-19 (5%), up
from one in fifty last week (2%).
these tests, one fifth returned positive (17%). This is just more than one half
of one percent of the population (0.7%).
More than one third of Ontarians report an underlying condition which might
aggravate a COVID-19 infection (32%). Of these, the most common is asthma (22%
of those reporting a condition).
About one fifth report being extremely or very emotionally stressed (18%).
About one fifth report being somewhat or very pessimistic about the future (18%).
order to avoid "social desirability bias", or the impulse to give a
socially acceptable answer, researchers often ask how "people in the
neighbourhood" behave, as a proxy for respondent behaviour.
wide majority of household members say those in their neighbourhood are
observing social distance (85%) and staying at home (91%), and this draws
almost universal approval.
INCIDENCE OF HAVING ONE OR MORE SYMPTOMS CONSISTENT WITH COVID-19
HAS DECLINED SINCE LAST WEEK
In the second wave of
interviewing for a new poll conducted jointly by Forum Research and Mainstreet
Research among 4260 randomly selected Ontario households on April 19, about one
in seven reported at least one of seven listed symptoms of COVID-19 (15%). This
represents a decline from last week (April 11/12 - 19%). The symptoms listed
were a new fever (2% this week, 3% last week), cough (4% this week and last),
headaches (7%, down from 10%), sore throat (5% now and then), diarrhea (4% now,
5% last week), loss of taste or smell (2% both weeks), or shortness of breath (2%
this week, 3% last week).
INCIDENCE OF KEY
SYMPTOMS (FEVER, COUGH, SHORTNESS OF BREATH) HAS ALSO DECLINED IN ONE WEEK
Three of the seven listed
symptoms are seen as key indicators; fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Together, incidence of having one or more of these three symptoms in the
household is one in twenty (5%), and this is about half the rate noted last
HAVING BEEN TESTED FOR COVID-19 HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED IN ONTARIO
One in twenty households
have had a member tested for COVID-19 by the end of last week (5%). This number
closely matches the reported actual penetration of testing in Ontario as of
April 12 (4%). This represents a cumulative increase in incidence from 2%
having been tested by the end of last week (2% actual penetration). Among those
reporting any symptoms, 1-in-10 have been tested (9%), while among those with
the three key symptoms, close to one fifth have had a test (17%), and these
numbers are up from 5% and 10%, respectively. Of those tested, more than one
fifth (23%) are still awaiting results, up from one seventh last week (15%).
...OF THOSE, FEWER
THAN ONE FIFTH HAVE TESTED POSITIVE THIS WEEK
Among the very small group
of households that report having been tested for COVID-19, just less than a
fifth report a positive test (17%), and this is stable since last week (15%). This
may be more common in single person households, in those with less formal
education and among the lowest income households (caution: small sample sizes).
Among the total population, just more than one half of one percent have been
tested (0.7%). Among those with any symptoms, close to half have received a
positive result (45%), up from one third last week (32%), while among those
with the three key symptoms, slightly more have a positive result (49%, up from
HAVE A HEALTH CONDITION WHICH MIGHT AGGRAVATE COVID-19 AND THIS IS STABLE SINCE
More than one third of
Ontarians report an underlying health condition which might aggravate a
COVID-19 infection (32%, relatively stable from 37% last week), and this is
most likely to be asthma (22% among those reporting a condition) followed by
diabetes (21%) a lung condition (16%) or a heart condition (16%).
ONE FIFTH STILL
REPORT BEING "EXTREMELY/VERY STRESSED" EMOTIONALLY
One fifth of Ontario
households say their level of emotional stress is "extremely/very
stressed" (18%, compared to 20% last week).
ONE FIFTH CONTINUE TO REPORT BEING "SOMEWHAT/VERY
PESSIMISTIC" ABOUT THE FUTURE
One fifth of Ontarians say
they are "somewhat/very pessimistic" about the future (18%, compared
to 22% last week).
"SOCIAL DESIRABILITY BIAS"
In order to avoid
"social desirability bias", or the impulse to give a socially
acceptable answer, researchers often ask how "people in the
neighbourhood" behave, as a proxy for respondent behaviour.
CONTINUE OBSERVING SOCIAL DISTANCING AND STAYING HOME
The very wide majority of
Ontario households are observing social distancing (85% reported of neighbours,
compared to 86% last week) and are staying home (91% this week and last).
ALMOST ALL STILL
APPROVE OF SOCIAL DISTANCING AND STAYING HOME
Ontarians approve of social distancing (96% this week, 97% last week) and
staying home (94% this week, 95% last week).
"Compared to last week this wave of polling shows a decrease in the proportion of households
reporting symptoms of COVID-19. At the same time, symptomatic households
are reporting testing at twice last week's rate, consistent with Ontario's recent expansion of
COVID-19 testing. These findings are encouraging, although it is too early to
conclude that the symptomatic curve is being flattened. There continues to be
much room for expansion of COVID-19 testing among community-dwelling
people with symptoms in Ontario" said Dr. Lauren Lapointe-Shaw of the
findings of this survey. Dr. Lapointe-Shaw is supporting this
project by sharing her clinical and research expertise to ensure results are
directly relevant to public health administrators and other policymakers.
- 30 -
William Schatten, CAIP
Dr. Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
University of Toronto
This poll represents the second Ontario wave of an unprecedented
collaboration between two of Canada's leading market research and public
opinion polling firms, Forum Research and Mainstreet Research. These two firms
have come together to demonstrate proof-of-concept of a nationwide COVID-19 symptoms
screening poll, conducted by telephone, using Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
technology, as an effective method of measuring prevalence and location of
people with symptoms of COVID-19 infection, and identifying clusters, or
potential "hot spots" before they become too advanced to manage.
"Symptom surveillance will provide a better
understanding of the scale and evolution of COVID-19 in Canada. This is because
symptoms start 1-2 weeks before test results, and at present many people with
symptoms cannot access testing," said Dr Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, when asked about the
efficacy of this methodology.
There are key advantages to this methodology:
- Based on a
random probability sample
to the general population
robust sample sizes
in real time
tracking, ongoing reporting, dashboard presentation
- SMS text
messaging included in sampling scheme
functionality allows targeted messaging
social desirability bias
Our methodology captures an
extremely robust probability sample, from which statistically valid projections
can be made, while the freshness of the data, which can be gathered nightly and
reported on a dashboard the next day, ensures key decisions can be made based
on real time data. SMS text messaging is included in the data collection
protocol. Other benefits include interactive functionality missing in web-based
applications, and the elimination of any self-selection bias
This methodology has already been pilot-tested in two
municipalities in Canada, the City of Brampton and the Regional Municipality of
Wood Buffalo (Fort MacMurray), on very large samples, on March 30.
PARTICIPANTS IN THE STUDY
With offices across Canada
and around the world, 100% Canadian-owned Forum Research is one of the
country’s leading survey research firms, having been the only poll to correctly
call a Liberal majority in 2015. Forum Research is a member of the American Association
for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the Canadian Research and Insights
Differentiated by its
large sample sizes, Mainstreet Research provides accurate snapshots of public
opinion, predicting the majority NDP government in Alberta, the 2018 Ontario
election and a CAQ majority win in the 2018 Quebec election. Mainstreet
Research is a member of the World Association for Public Opinion Research
(WAPOR) and the Market Research Intelligence Association (MRIA) and meets
international and Canadian publication standards.
Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, MD,
PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Clinician Scientist in the Department of
Medicine at the University of Toronto, and a Staff General Internal Medicine
Physician at the University Health Network. She was previously awarded a
CIHR Fellowship Award and CIHR-IHSPR’s Rising Star Award for her doctoral
thesis in Clinical Epidemiology and Healthcare Research. Her research is
broadly focused on measuring the quality of healthcare and the effects of health
policy on patient outcomes.
Polling across Ontario was
conducted by Mainstreet Research, on April 19, among a randomly selected sample
of 4260 Ontario
residents. Respondents were interviewed by landline and cell phone. Data was
tabulated by Forum Research. Polling was conducted by Interactive Voice
Response (Smart IVR) and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5%, nineteen
out of twenty times asking. Sample is segmented by 14 Local Health Integrated
Networks (LHINs) at approximately 300 interviews each. Margin of error on
individual LHIN samples is plus or minus 5.7%, nineteen out of twenty times
Where appropriate, data
have been weighted to ensure that data matches the actual population profile
according to the latest Statistics Canada data. Totals may not add up to 100%
due to rounding.