COVID-19 Community Surveillance Effort Underway

University of Miami Collaborates with Miami-Dade County on Antibody Testing Initiative

To learn more about the the Surveillance Program Assessing Risk and Knowledge of Coronavirus (SPARK-C), visit the UHealth news blog


A new effort led by researchers at the University of Miami Health System, in conjunction with Miami-Dade County, is helping shed light on the true scope of COVID-19 in South Florida’s epicenter.

The Surveillance Program Assessing Risk and Knowledge of Coronavirus, or SPARK-C, is currently underway. “It’s one of the largest efforts of its kind and will provide some real information that the mayor can use for operational decision making as well as a public health response,” says UHealth research scientist Dr. Erin Kobetz, who leads data collection and analysis for this effort.

In partnership with the county and Florida Power & Light, over the course of several weeks 3,000 to 4,000 randomly-selected Miami-Dade residents are being tested for antibodies to the novel coronavirus.

“Having positive antibodies means that you were exposed to the virus but not necessarily infected with it,” says Dr. Kobetz. “We’re trying to assess the broad community and to determine how prevalent the infection is throughout the community.”

Dr. Kobetz says the prevalence of COVID-19 in South Florida is likely significantly underestimated, with potentially 8-10 people actually infected for every one positive test reported in daily statistics.

Through a drive-thru finger prick test, participants will find out within hours if they have been exposed to the virus even if they have not become sick. The company that makes this serologic test has an Emergency Use Application under review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Randomly selected residents can opt to volunteer after receiving a pre-recorded call from Mayor Carlos Giminez. University of Miami public health and medical students will answer calls from those interested in participating. These students will conduct an initial screening and then will schedule the volunteers who consent to go to one of 10 designated testing sites.

“I think we will learn a lot about how COVID-19 is affecting our local community, whether certain geographies and/or population sub-groups have a greater infectivity rate, and most importantly, what to do about it now and in the future,” says Dr. Kobetz. “Doing this work in South Florida, given our significant diversity, will offer critical lessons learned for the broader U.S. and Western Hemisphere. Our data can drive local and global solutions.”


Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine is a series of healthcare-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10. For more stories like this one, visit YouTube channels for UHealth, the University of Miami Health System.

Above content provided by UHealth, the University of Miami Health System