Oregon State project will help determine prevalence of coronavirus in communities

Posted at 12:48 PM, May 15, 2020

Testing for coronavirus is still an issue nationwide.

Oregon State University is working on a project that is among the first to figure out how many people are actually infected with the virus in a community.

This is just happening in Corvallis for now, where the university is located, but they hope what they're doing can be a model that can be used everywhere in the future.

The TRACE-COVID-19 project has been going for three weekends now. The teams are visiting homes in neighborhoods that have been randomly selected to get a representative sample of the people in the town.

If people choose to participate, they get a nasal swab kit to administer themselves.

“One of the advantages of our approach is that it's rapid,” said project leader Jeff Bethel, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Oregon State University. “It occurs over a weekend, data collection. We get our samples. We get them to the lab quickly for testing and we analyze our data and release our results pretty quickly.”

Most of the testing happening now nationwide is primarily among people showing symptoms or showing up to health care providers to get tested. This project wants to fill in the gap.

“From the beginning, our plans were to conduct this project in Corvallis and using that time in this case, four weeks, to develop a template or a playbook that can be used by others to replicate in other communities,” said Bethel.

Bethel says knowing the population-based estimate of prevalence of the virus can help public health leaders make decisions about what to do next.