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About the TRACE Project

A TRACE volunteer holds envelopes

TRACE-COVID-19 is an OSU public health project designed to gather timely information about the presence of the novel coronavirus in communities and at Oregon State University. TRACE uses a scientific gold standard — random sampling — to understand the prevalence of the virus in the population.

The number of people infected is a key driver of an epidemic. Prevalence provides a leading indicator of the risk posed by the virus to the health of people in the whole population. Our goal is to inform public health policies and practices – in the community and within OSU – that slow the spread of the virus and minimize the impact of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Why testing is so important

With a clearer understanding of how the novel coronavirus spreads, public health leaders, health care providers and individuals can make informed decisions about policies and the use of time and resources to curb the spread of the virus and reduce its impacts.

Prevalence testing

Currently active at:

Corvallis, Bend, Oregon State University, OSU-Cascades, HMSC

Much of the testing done elsewhere focuses on people with symptoms, but those results fall short of showing the full extent of the virus in a community. That’s because the virus can be present in people without symptoms. Managing a pandemic without knowing how many people are infected is like driving a car without a steering wheel. TRACE sampling has generated critical information by providing prevalence data in Corvallis, Bend, Newport, Hermiston and Eugene, as well as prevalence data among OSU students, staff and faculty. We are working to share this process with other Oregon communities and, with the support of a $2 million grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, will create a new national TRACE center with other public health agencies and university partners across the nation.

Wastewater analysis

Currently active at:

Corvallis, Oregon State University, OSU-Cascades and Hatfield-Marine Science Center

TRACE is also monitoring wastewater for the presence of the virus in communities like Corvallis, Bend and Newport, and on the OSU campus. Ongoing wastewater monitoring provides another way to detect and track changes in the presence of the virus.

TRACE findings help Oregon public health officials make informed decisions about where to concentrate health resources to help prevent and address COVID-19 more effectively, and to inform university planning and response. The results also help community members and TRACE participants make personal decisions about their own health and that of family members.

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Funding for this project

Funding for TRACE is provided by Oregon State University, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, PacificSource Health Plans and the Oregon Health Authority.