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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

TRACE-COVID-19 is a public health project conducted by Oregon State University researchers to gather timely and lifesaving information about the prevalence and spread of the virus causing COVID-19 in Corvallis, Bend, and Lincoln City. This project will inform nationwide statistics as well. The project is providing information that is currently missing but 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 most communities actually have the virus. TRACE-COVID-19 will fill that gap in Corvallis, Bend, and Lincoln City.

There is strong evidence that the virus is being spread in part by individuals who are unaware they are infected. These individuals may be in the early stages of an infection, or they may never show virus symptoms at all. Data about what fraction of the population is infected, yet asymptomatic, will help public health officials to make more informed decisions. This information is key to slowing the spread of the disease, saving lives, lessening pressure on clinics and hospitals, and reducing the health and economic impact of COVID-19. Because the individuals tested will be informed of their test results, they also can also take steps to care for their own health and the health of those around them.

For example, public health officials can use TRACE-COVID-19 data to find and offer assistance to groups of infected individuals, monitor the spread of the epidemic over time and improve models that forecast what the pandemic might look like in the coming weeks to months. TRACE-COVID-19 data will also help public health officials better understand whether public health measures are having an effect, when measures such as stay-at-home orders can be relaxed, or if other measures are needed.

You can help save lives by participating in the study if you are invited to do so. If you participate, you will have access to your personal test results. You will not be able to see other individuals’ results except those of your dependents under the age of 18.

For each sampling period, members of OSU’s TRACE-COVID-19 team identify a statistically representative set of neighborhoods (U.S. Census blocks) in Corvallis, Bend, and Lincoln City to gather samples. Team workers visit residences in those neighborhoods and invite residents to participate in the study. The goal is to sample eight to twelve households in each of 30 neighborhoods in Corvallis, Bend, and Lincoln City each sampling period. The workers going door-to-door are properly trained, tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, protected and certified. They maintain physical and social distancing throughout their work. They do not enter residences. At each household, residents who agree to participate sign a consent form and provide basic information, then are given a home test kit. Participants go inside their residence, follow the directions with the kit to take their own nasal swabs, seal the container provided and return the container to their doorstep. TRACE-COVID-19 workers then collect the container and proceed to the next residence.

Participants in the study have access to their test results once researchers have conducted the screening and verified results. Results from each week’s survey are reported to the state and to the Benton and Deschutes county health departments, as required by the state.

The OSU research team hopes this public health surveillance project will be expanded to a few other Oregon communities in collaboration with the relevant county health departments.

If your household is among the preselected neighborhoods, TRACE-COVID-19 workers may visit your residence and ask if you are willing to participate in the study. If you agree, they will provide you with a consent form to sign, ask you to provide basic information and leave a home test kit and instructions on your doorstep. At all times, they maintain physical and social distancing to help keep everyone safe. They will not enter your residence under any circumstance.

The test is painless and easy to perform yourself. It involves swabbing your nose with a specially prepared swab provided in the home test kit. The kit is self-contained, and you do not need any other equipment. Simply follow the directions in the kit. While the workers wait outside, you will be asked to:

  1. Self-administer a nasal swab (or administer a nasal swab to a dependent minor).
  2. Deposit the nasal swab in the plastic tube swab side down (in the liquid).
  3. Break off the swab handle that protrudes beyond the plastic tube.
  4. Close the plastic tube and place it in the provided plastic bag.
  5. Disinfect the plastic bag with the wipe provided.
  6. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  7. Place the plastic bag on your doorstep in a sanitized tub provided by the field team.
  8. Close your door, allowing the field team to retrieve the sample while maintaining a physical distance from you social distancing.

OSU scientists transport the swabs to Willamette Valley Toxicology which uses tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to screen your and others’ swabs for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19.

OSU is uniquely positioned to lead this effort and is collaborating closely with the county health departments to ensure the project adds significant value to local public health efforts. TRACE-COVID-19 project leaders are experts in disease epidemiology, public health, the spread of viral diseases and epidemic modeling. They have the expertise to collect, analyze and interpret samples collected from the community. They are providing unique information to and complement what local health care providers and institutions are already doing.

Because health care institutions and testing facilities are overwhelmed, our additional testing enhances local capacity. Moreover, our study design is providing essential information that is currently needed but lacking.

There is strong evidence that COVID-19 is spread in part by individuals who are infected with the virus but do not show symptoms. Knowing the prevalence of these infected but asymptomatic individuals in the community is urgently needed to inform smart decisions about response by public health and elected officials.

Through a creative public-private partnership, OSU and Willamette Valley Toxicology have increased the testing capacity available in the region. Willamette Valley Toxicology uses FDA-authorized tests.

You will have access to your own test results. No other participants will be able to see your results or obtain any of your personal health information. The state of Oregon requires all labs that are doing testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 to report individually identifiable results to the state and county health departments, in this case to your county health department.

An important feature of the TRACE-COVID-19 project is a sampling design that allows us to obtain a statistically significant and representative sample of Corvallis, Bend, and Newport. The study’s door-to-door approach within randomly selected neighborhoods is the best way to achieve that result.

The TRACE-COVID-19 test for the virus is similar to tests conducted by hospitals and clinics. However, OSU’s study provides more information about the community than what clinics and hospitals are gathering. Clinics and hospitals primarily test individuals with symptoms. The TRACE-COVID-19 study focuses on the prevalence of the virus in the entire community and provides important insight into how many people and what fraction of the population have the virus, regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. By sampling over multiple weeks, TRACE will provide insight into how the community prevalence changes through time.

Many people infected with this virus don’t have symptoms, but they are still able to transmit the disease to others in their family, neighborhood or workplace. To slow the spread of COVID-19, public health officials and researchers require more information about who has the virus and how quickly the virus is spreading. The TRACE-COVID-19 study will be able to determine how many individuals have the virus regardless of their symptoms. Information about the whole population is the key to slowing the spread of the virus and minimizing its impacts. This information is essential, it’s missing, and, with participants’ help, we can get it.

The research team has identified a randomly selected set of neighborhoods. A certain number of households in each of those neighborhoods are invited to participate. This sampling design will give researchers the robust, statistically significant information needed to determine the prevalence of the virus in our community.

Only by testing a randomly selected set of neighborhoods can OSU determine the prevalence of the virus in a community. Although individuals tested are informed of their results, the primary purpose of this study is to obtain critical information about the prevalence of the virus in the community. We do not have the capacity to test everyone who requests a test.

Thanks to the OSU-Willamette Valley Toxicology partnership, we can test hundreds of samples each day.

OSU’s TRACE-COVID-19 study team isworking closely with the Benton, Deschutes, and Lincoln county health departments to ensure that the TRACE-COVID-19 study is useful and consistent with the county departments' public health efforts, and it has their support. Together, OSU and the county health departments are ensuring that the medical and health care community, elected officials and others are aware of the project and are briefed on its results.

The state government has compiled a list of great ways that you can help fight the coronavirus in Oregon that are available here.

Our first priority is your safety and that of the TRACE testing team. We use trained personnel to gather basic health-related information and to safely collect swab samples. Samples are analyzed using FDA-authorized equipment and protocols.

If you are invited to participate, you need to sign a consent form, provide basic information (name, date of birth, contact information, demographic information, and symptoms such as fever or other signs of illness), then use the provided home test kit to swab the inside of your nose and return the kit to the field team. The test is not at all painful. We will provide you with information about the project and instructions about how to get your individual results.

All residents of randomly selected households who consent to participate can be tested.

All participants are able to obtain their individual test results. It is likely that the results will be available within 7 to 10 days.

TRACE field staff also provide participants with information from the Benton, Deschutes, and Lincoln county health departments and the CDC, for example, on how to stay healthy, how to care for yourself or a household member who tests positive for the virus, and how to manage stress and maintain good mental health during the pandemic.

No. At the present time, there are no reliable estimates of the number of people who are infected in Corvallis, Bend, or Newport, throughout Oregon or the U.S. This is because testing has not been widely available, and the numbers reported are only those who have tested as positive. Asymptomatic individuals are rarely tested despite the potential for them to transmit the disease. For this reason, the community-based testing that the TRACE study is conducting provides important new information that helps both individuals and populations.

Yes. The TRACE project is based on voluntary participation and informed consent by those being tested. The study has been approved by the Benton County Health Department, the Deschutes County Health Department, Lincoln County Health and Human Services, and the Institutional Review Board at OSU, as well as by OSU leadership. The study uses FDA-authorized laboratories, equipment and protocols.

Whatwe learn in Corvallis, Bend, and Newport will be highly useful elsewhere because it will provide public health officials presently absent information about the number of individuals infected by the virus and their demographics. This information is needed to make smart decisions in the interest of the public’s health and the community’s well-being. With this knowledge, we all benefit. Having the information speeds up our ability to return to normal routines and business. Information is immediately useful, enabling society to better respond and make appropriate decisions at all levels.

OSU will share our pilot procedures to enable other research universities in Oregon, and then across the nation, to quickly replicate this monitoring.

We are providing near real-time data to local, state and national health officials monitoring and responding to the spread of COVID-19, which will help advise and improve mitigation strategies locally and nationally.

The test is free.

Funding for OSU’s TRACE-COVID-19 project is provided by OSU, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and PacificSource Health Plans.

If your test result is positive, communicable disease investigators will call you to gather additional information about people with whom you may have been in contact. This will allow an assessment of your contacts' potential risk and provide them with information to reduce the chances of spreading the infection. The health department will keep your identity confidential and does not /will not disclose your name to contacts that you identify.

What we learn in Corvallis, Ben, and Newport will be highly useful elsewhere because it will provide public health officials presently absent information about the number of individuals infected by the virus and their demographics. This information is needed to make smart decisions in the interest of the public’s health and the community’s well-being. With this knowledge, we all benefit. Having the information speeds up our ability to return to normal routines and business. Information is immediately useful, enabling society to better respond and make appropriate decisions at all levels.

OSU will share our pilot procedures to enable other research universities in Oregon, and then across the nation, to quickly replicate this monitoring.

We are providing near real-time data to local, state and national health officials monitoring and responding to the spread of COVID-19, which will help advise and improve mitigation strategies locally and nationally.

The TRACE team will be wearing clearly identifiable OSU/TRACE name tags and lanyards. They will be in OSU vans with a large OSU/TRACE sign on the outside of the van. They will carry identification and have OSU/TRACE documents to share with you, including a signed letter from the Benton County Health Department, Deschutes County Health Department, or Lincoln County Health and Human Services.

Thanks for your interest! Each weekend through May 17, trained field staff with TRACE-COVID-19 will visit a set of households in a representative set of previously selected Corvallis neighborhoods and invite members of the household to participate in the study. On each of four weekends, we will collect samples from 960 people, roughly 1/60 of the community. If your household isn’t selected and you want to help, the state government has compiled a list of great ways that you can help fight the coronavirus in Oregon.