What is this study about?

This study is about understanding how we can safely rebuild community relationships and maximize social interactions while keeping the COVID-19 virus in check.

The information you and others provide via our surveys will help us to better understand how the virus could spread in our communities and to identify lower-risk areas and activities (“social contours”). This will allow us to identify protective measures that limit virus spread while disrupting our society as little as possible.

The aim is to demonstrate a data- and metric-driven approach to guiding and supporting the reintegration and reopening process by:

  • collecting behavioural, perceptual, social, and place-based data (i.e. how we act, think, interact, and move) from the people of Saskatchewan;
  • assigning a COVID-19 risk level to people and places;
  • identifying lower- and higher-risk places in our communities; and
  • communicating this information to public health officials and to the general public.

This will enable us to keep the virus spread under control while rebuilding our social interactions and relationships, supporting the safest re-opening and reintegration of Saskatchewan during the ‘stable’ phase of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

What are “social contours”?

Social contours include people and places, sets of activities or social interactions you can undertake without causing a new outbreak. Social contouring is about proactively looking where the virus might go (rather than reactive, i.e. trying to track its traces). In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, social contours describe people and places where carefully modulated social interactions and activities could safely occur, especially at the tail-end of an outbreak or during stable phase of the pandemic, when the aim is reintegration of people and re-opening of places and spaces. 

What are “lower-risk” areas (i.e. “safer” zones)?

Lower-risk areas (i.e. “safer zones”) are defined by a survey of safe behavioral activity  and by a broad understanding of the current and dynamic disease metrics, then mapped. Lower-risk areas in this study are bounded by a group of respondents who are rated to have a calculated net low-risk score.

See also: “How do you calculate risk levels?” (below). 

Are my data secure?

Yes. Online survey data are programmed and administered by Social Sciences Research Laboratories (SSRL) at the University of Saskatchewan using Voxco, a Canadian-owned and managed company, with secure servers located in Canada. Data are stored on an enterprise class, password-protected, access-managed University of Saskatchewan server. Data is anonymized and stored for 5 years, then securely and permanently deleted. SSRL, as are the researchers and any data handlers are ethically bound to handle data to the highest ethical standards, including preserving confidentiality and anonymity of data. 

Why am I asked to complete the survey more than one time?

We are in the process of “re-opening Saskatchewan”—a dynamic process requires dynamic data to capture how Saskatchewanians act, think, interact, and move throughout the process. For example, in May (Phase 1 of our survey), perhaps you went to the grocery store once a month and only physically interacted with your immediate family, but in June (Phase 2 survey), you are having BBQs with your extended family within your family “bubble,” going fishing with a friend, and returning to work where you can. By completing each new phase of the survey, you provide us with the information we need to ensure our research is as dynamic as our people and places. 

Will my data be reported or shared with my doctor or any public health person?

No. This is an anonymous survey; your individual data are anonymized and secure and no information will be collected that would enable anyone to identify you personally.  Survey data are reported in aggregate form (i.e. combined with others’ data); we will not analyze, disseminate or report data from any one individual participant, to anyone.

To see how we report survey results, click here.

How do you calculate risk levels?

In this study, we calculate risk as the difference between risk exposure and risk mitigation.

Overall Risk – Overall Mitigation = Net Risk

Overall risk exposure is, simply, things we do and people we see that could expose us to COVID-19. It is the sum of places visited, number of people you are in contact with and for how long, exposure through volunteering and working outside the home, living circumstances, means of transportation, places visited (including how often and for how long), grocery shopping and how often, living circumstances, travel, etc.

Risk is mitigated (i.e. reduced, lessened) by what we do to protect ourselves and our communities (e.g. use of personal protective equipment and non-medical masks, washing hands, self-isolating/quarantining, etc.). Overall mitigation is a sum of access to personal protective equipment (PPE), hand washing, and self-isolation/quarantining measures if experiencing symptoms.

Net Risk is the difference between the overall risk score and the overall mitigation score. See our Results page for more. 

How will this study benefit me? People of Saskatchewan?

There is potential for immense individual (including you as a participant) and societal benefits to this research. It will help identify activities and social interactions that can be undertaken without the risk of causing an outbreak and identify social and public solutions to assist transition from confinement to safe socialization, and find specific solutions for vulnerable persons without stigmatizing them. Benefits include:

  • increased awareness of factors that increase COVID-19 risk and potential to change behaviours (e.g. food procurement, social interactions, handwashing, etc.) to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19;
  • increased understanding of how the virus may be spread;
  • identification of lower-risk zones or social contours of risk within our communities and across Saskatchewan; and
  • using this research (data, maps, social contours of COVID-19 in SK) to help guide local health authorities and municipal, regional and national governments as they adjust public health and social COVID-19 prevention and containment measures and reintegrate/“re-open” Saskatchewan (society, recreation, economic, etc.).
  • complementing epidemiological indicators and surveillance with local and provincial social contour data, metrics, and mapping.

How do I know when the next phase of your survey is available?

You can send an email to socialcontouring@usask.ca and we will add you to a confidential mailing list to receive notifications about upcoming surveys. 

How do I keep track of the results of this research project?

Throughout the project, we will be posting results on this website on our "Social Contours & COVID-19 Results" page.

More Questions?

If you have any questions for us (including those you think should be covered here), send an email to social.contouring@usask.ca.