Request for Expressions of InterestCOVID-19 Hot Spots

Posted: September 3, 2020

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS has passed, it was SEPTEMBER 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been experienced unequally within countries and Canada is no exception. Over 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been in long-term care facilities. Further, within the hardest hit provinces, cases have clustered in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods where minority populations are concentrated. Additionally, workers whose jobs require routine direct interaction with the public are at greater risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Understanding the factors that give rise to these “Hot Spots” is critical to informing the design and assessing the effectiveness of efforts aimed at reducing disproportionate risk to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.

This Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) is for population-based studies that will report novel data relating to COVID-19 infection and immunity in three types of COVID-19 “hot spots”: i) geographic areas; ii) long-term care facilities; and iii) occupation groups.  

The three “Hot Spots” for Study:

  1. Geographic Areas:  Neighbourhoods, boroughs, and municipalities with disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 (defined as cases per thousand above a defined threshold), where there are often high concentrations of racialized populations, Indigenous populations, recent immigrants, and homeless persons. 
  2. Long-Term Care Facilities: About 25% of long-term care facilities in Canada have suffered COVID-19 outbreaks with extremely high mortality rates. Residents, front-line workers, families, visitors and personal care companions all factor into infection risk, yet 75% of facilities have not experienced outbreaks.  
  3. Occupation Groups and Populations Served: Those who are at higher risk because working from home is not an option and the nature of the work setting places them in close proximity and requires significant interactions with the population served, the general public, and/or co-workers. Priorities include:
    • Education workers and students – i.e. teachers, support staff and students;
    • Public service workers – fire, police, transport, security;
    • Industrial workers – meat/fish packing, seasonal agricultural;
    • Retail workers – grocery, restaurant, personal goods.

Health care workers in the acute care setting as well as prisons and correctional workers are not included in this RFEOI as there are other funding opportunities covering these groups.

Studies focusing on these “hot spots” are expected to provide a more in-depth understanding of the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity in high- versus low-risk communities and/or prospectively evaluate interventions to decrease risk of infection in these settings.  

Expressions of Interest are expected to:

  • Focus on only one of the three “hot spot” areas defined above;
  • Demonstrate active engagement of relevant stakeholders in the community(ies) within the “hot spot”, from inception through to dissemination of the research;
  • Draw on measures of COVID-19 immunity (serological, cellular, salivary) and also acute infection (RTPCR/NAATs);
  • Consider a range of relevant independent variables that determine individual, household, and/or workplace risks or protective factors;
  • Be innovative, interdisciplinary and of high scientific quality;
  • Be carried out within a 12-18-month time horizon.

Proposal Preparation Workshop: Following screening of the EOIs by the COVID-19 Immunity Taskforce (CITF) Secretariat, those deemed to have the most potential will be invited to a mandatory proposal preparation workshop on October 6, 2020. The workshop aims are threefold: i) to provide further context of the CITF and to ensure Provincia/Territorial and Federal perspectives are fully considered; ii) to foster linkages between population studies with studies of immune response to infection; and iii) to align EOIs on similar topics to facilitate the development of team proposals.    

Proposal Submission: The CITF secretariat will work with the teams that emerge from the workshop to develop a final, full proposal of 10-12 pages. The proposals will be submitted no later than October 12, 2020. After independent review and revision, final revised proposals will be submitted on October 26, 2020. Those selected will be given instructions as to how to submit.

Budget: The CITF intends to fund multiple studies in each “hot spot” category that meet or exceed expectations related to scientific value, community/stakeholder engagement, and policy relevance. An overall funding envelope of up to $30 million is available.

Tentative Dates of Importance

EOI deadline to submitSept 21
Peer review of EOI completedSeptember 30
Proposal Development Workshop (by invitation)Week of October 5
Full proposal deadlineOctober 19
Review of full proposal completedOctober 26
Funding AnnouncementWeek of November 10