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The Rapid Response Fund

Innovating Through Investment in 9 New Pilot Projects
The Yale School of Public Health Rapid Response Fund was created to serve as a vehicle for investing in the prevention of future death and economic loss at the hands of COVID-19. Donor gifts to the fund accelerate essential data needed to power innovation in research and progress in the global fight against COVID-19. Recent gifts to the fund totaling $700,000 have had an enormous impact, and funds have been put to immediate use to grant the following YSPH faculty awards for COVID-19 work that is currently underway.

Integrating Host Genetics and Electronic Medical Records to Combat COVID-19

Awardee: Hongyu Zhao, PhD

Description: COVID-19 results from complex interactions between virus, human host, and other factors. This project involves using state-of-the-art statistical methods to better understand host genetic factors for COVID-19. The project is novel in integrating COVID-19hg results with the Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) Generations Project for better patient care that considers both genetic and clinical information. The study will also explore health disparity issues associated with COVID-19 because of the diverse patient population at YNHH and provide the host genetics perspective on COVID-19 epidemics.

Approaches to Contact Tracing and Limiting COVID-19 Outbreaks in Schools in Connecticut

Awardee: Xin Zhou, PhD

Description: This study will evaluate the effectiveness, feasibility, and acceptability of different contact tracing approaches in private middle and high schools in the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). The study will also assess the predictors of COVID-19 outbreaks in these schools using data collected from students and school staff. The study findings will help identify practices for schools to adapt to safely reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Molecular Signatures in COVID-19 Disease Spectrum

Description: This pilot study proposes to use the Yale IMPACT Biorepository to identify metabolic signatures in the plasma of a SARS-CoV-2-infected patient that may predict the severity of COVID-19 experience by the patient. The proposed studies will distinguish how metabolic changes and clinical symptoms/parameters relate to each other (both within and between each patient group) and thereby provide insights into potential mechanisms underlying the observed changes. Study findings would be extremely helpful for triaging patients and allowing for more efficient utilization of limited health
resources, e.g. medications, ventilators, ICU beds, and medical personnel.

Examining Sex Differences in Metabolism that Correspond with Immune Response to SARS-CoV-2

Description: Sex differences in coronavirus disease severity and mortality exist with the male sex being a potential risk factor. This study will examine sex-differences in metabolism and disease severity in patients with coronavirus disease. Findings will be validated in larger sample cohorts at Yale and other sites. The study will also investigate the study findings in vivo to improve clinical outcomes for all patients with SARS-CoV-2.

Understanding the Disproportionate Impacts of COVID-19 on Low-Income, Predominately Minority Communities

Description: This study proposes to collect an additional wave of survey data from an existing longitudinal cohort (N=400) of low-income New Haven residents to analyze the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their physical and mental health and socioeconomic well-being. In addition, this study will examine the impacts of prevention guidelines (e.g. social distancing, household isolation) and policies at both the federal and local levels (e.g. closing of all but essential services, stimulus checks, housing of homeless) aimed at reducing the vulnerability to and effects of the pandemic. This study provides an opportunity to better understand some of the specific mechanisms through which these social and economic inequalities produce pandemic-related outcomes. It can also suggest how these vulnerable populations have both benefited from and been harmed by policies aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus and at reducing the potential socio-economic hardships (and further inequities) those policies may produce.

Implementation of COVID-19 Contact Tracking in New Haven

Awardee: Luke Davis, MD

Description: In mid-March, YSPH students and faculty led by Linda Niccolai partnered with the New Haven Health Department (NHHD) and Yale Health Plan to launch a telephone contact tracing program for all New Haven residents on April 4. To date, over 2,500 COVID patients have been interviewed and over 5,000 close contacts notified. This study’s goals are to determine the overall yield, timeliness, and effectiveness of COVID-19 contact tracing in New Haven; identify specific barriers and facilitators through engagement with frontline stakeholders; and develop and disseminate recommendations for practice innovations.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on an Established Cohort of At-Risk Adults

Awardee: Sarah Lowe, PhD

Description: This study presents a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of a vulnerable sample of approximately 1,000 women – predominately African American mothers – who have been surveyed five times over the past 16 years as part of the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) study. Several characteristics of the sample suggest their heightened vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will be able to elucidate sources of risk and resilience within a vulnerable population, and, as such, its findings could have implications for policies and practices to mitigate risk among vulnerable adults as the pandemic continues to unfold. The project is innovative in that it draws on the perspectives of an established team of scholars in psychology, social and behavioral sciences, sociology, and urban studies, and thus stands to have a multi-disciplinary impact.

A Mixed Method Investigation of the Impact of COVID-19 on the Disability Community

Awardee: Katie Wang, PhD

Description: This research will utilize a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the psychosocial and health impacts of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities (PWD). In addition to exploring unique sources of risk for this population, this project also examines whether known sources of resilience in the disability community (e.g. supportive interpersonal relationships, effective coping/emotion regulation, disability identity/pride) might buffer against the psychosocial and health impacts of COVID-19-related stressors on PWD. Findings from this research will thus yield novel insights into how the pandemic is affecting the health and well- being of PWD in the U.S., who represent a substantial portion of the population. Results can also inform the efforts of rehabilitation professionals, disability organizations, and policymakers as they work to improve future pandemic response.

Optimizing the Use of Physical Distancing Interventions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Description: In the absence of an effective vaccine or other pharmaceutical interventions, physical distancing (PD) measures have been the primary means to reduce the speed of epidemic growth and to relieve pressure on health care systems. PD measures, however, impose an immense economic and social burden. This project will develop a decision tool to help policymakers determine when PD interventions should be started, continued, and stopped to optimize health and economic outcomes. This decision tool aims to meet the needs of policymakers to identify evidence-based and cost-effective recommendations regarding the use of PD measures to interrupt SARS-CoV-2 transmission.