NCICS epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Runkle worked with officials from Buncombe County, NC, to develop and release a COVID-19 “self-checker” tool for county residents. The tool helps residents assess potential symptoms and make decisions about seeking medical care while providing county public health experts with better information about the spread of the virus.

May 5, 2020
Asheville, NC – A new COVID-19 “self-checker” is now available to residents of Buncombe County, NC. This new survey tool was developed by NCICS environmental epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Runkle in conjunction with county public health officials and other partners. It is designed to help residents who may need testing or medical care while also providing officials with vital data about the spread of COVID-19 in the county. The tool extends beyond symptom checking and allows residents to opt-in to a daily check-in to allow health officials to monitor change in symptoms or barriers to obtaining testing or medical care.

Residents who are experiencing symptoms or who may have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus are encouraged to make use of the self-checker, which will help them assess their symptoms, evaluate their own health risks, know where to go for testing if needed, and make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

The tool is available online in English, Spanish, and Russian at and is available by calling 211 for those who have poor or no internet access. Participants experiencing symptoms will also receive follow-up contacts for 7–10 days.

Daily and weekly reports generated from the survey will give officials a better picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 in Buncombe County. In the first five days of a soft rollout, 255 persons used the tool. Of those, 28 were instructed to call 911 due to the severity of their symptoms, while 103 with milder symptoms were instructed to contact their primary care provider and arrange to be tested. Six had been in contact with someone with COVID-19 and are being monitored by the public health department.

Dr. Runkle joined NCICS in 2014, where she engages in research on the intersection of climate change and human health. As part of NCICS’s Assessments Technical Support unit, she served as an editor for the 2016 U.S. Global Change Research Program assessment of the impacts of climate change on human health and as a lead author on the NOAA state climate summaries project. Recent research efforts explore the impacts of extreme temperatures on outdoor workers and the mental health impacts of extreme weather events. Dr. Runkle also leads the Western North Carolina Climate and Health Working Group.

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