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Working together to lower the risk and slow the spread of COVID-19

Oregon State University has launched a new project to help determine the prevalence in the Corvallis, Bend, Newport and Hermiston communities of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Team-based Rapid Assessment of Community-level coronavirus Epidemics

TRACE-COVID-19 is a public health project that is gathering timely information that is essential for informing measures to slow the spread and minimize the impact of the disease. Because testing has been limited, and because only individuals with symptoms have been tested, no one knows how many people in Corvallis, Bend, Newport, or Hermiston — or most other places — actually have the virus. TRACE-COVID-19 is filling that gap in Corvallis, Bend, Newport, and Hermiston and we hope later in other Oregon communities and across the nation.

Participants in this project are helping enable a more effective response to COVID-19.

A number of households in a representative set of neighborhoods across Corvallis, Bend, Newport, and Hermiston are being invited to participate in the study by field staff going door-to-door. Participants receive a home test kit to use inside their home and then return it to the staff.

By agreeing to participate in the TRACE-COVID-19 study, participants are helping public health leaders and scientists understand how prevalent the virus that causes COVID-19 is in Corvallis, Bend, Newport, and Hermiston and how its prevalence is changing. With a clearer understanding of how the virus spreads, public health leaders, health care providers and individuals can make informed decisions about policies and the use of time and resources to slow the spread of the virus and minimize its impacts.

Additionally, sewer samples are being taken at the cities’ wastewater treatment plants as well as in the sewer lines of select neighborhoods. The concentration of remnants of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) will be quantified in these samples. Given that everyone contributes to the composition of a city’s or community’s wastewater, this strategy will provide another layer of evidence to determine if COVID-19 is present in the community. Additionally, this methodology will provide a general sense of the level of infection for that city or community.

It is critical that we all act quickly.

How it works

Samples obtained from home test kits are collected from community members in Corvallis, Bend, Newport, and Hermiston. A team of scientists and public health experts at Oregon State University has developed the TRACE home test kit. The sampling kit includes a nasal swab, a plastic tube with a liquid to inactivate the virus and preserve the sample for analysis, a plastic bag and a disinfectant wipe to sanitize the bag. These simple, self-administered tests collect material from the entrance of the nose. They are more comfortable and less invasive than nasopharyngeal swabs seen in the media, which collect nasal secretions from the back of the nose and throat.

The kits are provided to a predetermined, representative set of households that agree to participate in the study. This sampling provides a snapshot of how prevalent the virus is in our community. The test screens for the virus in people who are infected and have symptoms, as well as those who are infected but do not show symptoms.

Additionally, sewer surveillance samples will be taken from locations that capture the wastewater from these selected neighborhoods. Due to logistical issues, it is generally not possible to conducted sewer surveillance in every neighborhood selected for door-to-door testing. However, all neighborhoods, those selected for door-to–door testing and those that are not, will be covered by wastewater samples collected at the city wastewater treatment plant.

The findings will help Oregon public health officials make informed decisions about where to concentrate health resources to combat the disease more effectively. The results also help participants make personal decisions about their own health and that of family members in their homes.