Results of the COVID-19 CARTaGENE survey
The CARTaGENE’s COVID-19 online survey was sent to more than 33,000 participants of the Quebec
population-based cohort CARTaGENE in early June 2020. The invitation was valid for 4 weeks and the
questionnaire was closed in early July.
The requested information concerned: (i) the existence of manifestations suggesting of a COVID-19 infection, the
tests performed and the results, the evolution, (ii) the medical history, (iii) the socio-demographic factors and
potential risk factors, (iv) the consequences of the pandemic on everyday life.
Similar results to those observed in Quebec
As of July 6th, 2020, 8,129 participants completed the questionnaire. Among them, 8% were tested for COVID-19
(649 participants) of which 6.3% (41) were positive. These results are similar to those observed in Quebec (7.3%
of the population tested and 7.4% of positive cases among the tested). The average time to receive a test result was
3 days. Three people were hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection, but none of them were hospitalized in the
intensive care unit.
Medical workers and people who had a contact with a COVID-positive individual are the most tested and
the most positive.
The participants living in Montreal (epicenter of the COVID-19 infection), living in an apartment/condominium,
with a chronic respiratory disease and exposed to potential risks of infection (healthcare worker, contact with a
COVID-19 case) were more frequently tested.
Among the tested (more than 600 participants), medical workers and people who had contact with a COVIDpositive
individual were the two largest groups (32% and 42%, respectively). They were also the two groups with
the highest rate of positivity (17% and 13%, respectively). The other participants were tested after the occurrence
of one of the four symptoms compatible with COVID-19 identified by the Ministère de la santé et des services
sociaux (MSSS): fever (>38°C); cough (recent or chronic with exacerbation); respiratory difficulty; sudden
anosmia (loss of smell) without nasal obstruction, with or without ageusia (loss of taste).
A significant proportion of the participants with COVID-related symptoms were not tested.
It is worth noting that 7.6% of the participants reported having one of the 4 symptoms compatible with COVID-
19 and were not tested.
A particular symptomatology
The factors strongly associated with being positive were anosmia, fever and headache. Symptoms such as sinusitis,
otitis, sore throat, runny nose, or wet cough, which could be reported during the test, were not associated with test
A more difficult access to healthcare but more widespread use of virtual consultations.
One-third of the participants experienced a decrease in access to health services. However, it is interesting to note
that virtual medical consultations were widely used.
A greater socio-economic and psychological impact for women and younger participants.
While the impact of the first two months of the pandemic remains overall limited, there was an increase in food
consumption, a decrease in physical activity and a slight increase in anxiety among women. There was a slight
income decrease among younger participants.
A change of habits.
The majority of the participants changed their lifestyle habits, in particular by limiting their use of public
In conclusion, the main findings from the first months of the pandemic are: (i) The pre-existing structure of
the CARTaGENE population-based cohort has demonstrated its role as a Public Health surveillance system during
this pandemic by collecting and analyzing public health relevant results in a very short period; (ii) There appeared
to be a lack of test accessibility for people with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 during the first wave; (iii)
The 4 main symptoms selected by the Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux (MSSS) seem to be quite
appropriate for the indication to carry out a screening test; (iv) Access to healthcare was severely disrupted during
lockdown, but remote consultations compensated for this effect, and a specific effort should be considered by the
health system in anticipation of a possible second wave; (v) Socio-economic and psychological impacts appear to
be moderate for the moment but should be monitored in the coming months.
Epidemiological and socio-economic characteristics of the COVID-19 spring outbreak in Quebec, Canada: A
population-based study (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.26.20182675v1)