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OSU bringing COVID-19 testing to Bend neighborhoods this weekend

Project leaders hope to collect more than 650 samples in 30 random neighborhoods

(Update: new video, comments from project leaders)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Starting Saturday, Oregon State University is bringing COVID-19 testing to Bend, in a door-to-door project similar to one taking place in Corvallis.

The study is called TRACE-COVID-19, short for Team-based Rapid Assessment of Community-Level Coronavirus Epidemics.

It was developed by five OSU colleges in partnership with the Benton County Health Department.

Researchers and doctors told NewsChannel 21 Friday the testing will allow them to determine how present the novel coronavirus is in the community.

"It gives people something that they can do or know about to tangibly help affect change in how the virus has affected our community," said Steve Clark, OSU's vice president for university relations and marketing.

TRACE-COVID-19 began the weekend of April 25 in Corvallis, where nearly 2,000 community members have been tested over three weekends.

On the first weekend, results suggested about two people per 1,000 in Corvallis had the novel coronavirus. Each of the following two weekends, that number dropped to one person per 1,000 in the area.

Now, those same tests are going to be happening all throughout Bend this weekend.

OSU-Cascades has put together 30 teams made up of two members each - one student and one leader, many of whom are traditional health care workers.

They will drive around to 30 random Bend neighborhoods in white vans over the next two days, going door to door, inviting people to participate.

Those who choose to do so will go through a short interview, and then collect a nasal swab specimen.

Samples will be taken back to Corvallis to be tested.

Officials told NewsChannel 21 they hope to collect more than 650 samples this weekend.

"If there are people that are out there that are infected that we don't know about, whether symptomatic or not, then they'll be followed up just as though they had come in and gotten a test at the clinic or a hospital,” Deschutes County Health Services Director Dr. George Conway said Friday.

“That means that our public health nursing staff would contact them, and check in how they're doing, make sure if they're ill that they are getting care, and then do an investigation," Conway said.

The investigation will help determine where the person may have contracted the virus, and who else may have been exposed.

"If there is a surprisingly higher prevalence than anticipated, then that will be very helpful information for us," Conway said. "Then once again, we will be able to go back and do contact investigation, contact tracing, and that will help with containment efforts."

Officials said it's hard to predict what the prevalence of the novel coronavirus in Bend will be.

Test results will be available seven to 10 days after all samples are collected.

A separate team will be conducting a complementary study in Bend this weekend, looking at sewage samples for genetic material of the novel coronavirus. That technique could do a better job of encompassing all people in the community.

This may not be the only weekend of TRACE-COVID-19 testing in Bend. Project leaders said they are considering more rounds of testing there in the near future.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.


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