Harris County plans to fight COVID by randomly knocking on your door — and asking for blood

by Zach Despart 

Harris County Public Health will survey residents for COVID-19 antibodies in an effort to determine how many people already have been infected with the novel coronavirus, the department said.

Beginning Sunday, health workers will visit randomly selected homes and ask residents to answer questions and provide blood samples.

Humans produce antibodies, proteins in the immune system, to fight infections from viruses and other pathogens. It can take days or weeks for antibodies to develop following exposure to the coronavirus, and it remains unclear how long they remain in an individual’s blood.

The Houston region has recorded 236,704 COVID-19 cases since the virus arrived here in March, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis, but health officials estimate this is only a fraction of the total number of infections.

Health officials hope the antibody tests will help the county determine how COVID-19 spread in certain communities, how transmission rates differ between neighborhoods, how effective containment strategies have been and how many residents contracted the virus but never exhibited symptoms.

“This survey is a very important way that local residents can help public health workers fight this virus,” Harris County Public Health Executive Director Dr. Umair A. Shah said in a statement. “By finding out how widespread the illness is, we can develop strategies that will help us control the spread of COVID-19.”

Participation in the program is voluntary, and only selected households are eligible. Teams of health workers wearing yellow vests will make their rounds from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Antibody testing is different than common nasal swab tests, which can detect active infections. The health department is encouraging residents to participate so they can determine if they contracted COVID-19 in the past.

The pandemic steadily has worsened in the Houston area since October. The region reported 1,079 COVID hospitalizations on Wednesday, the highest since before Labor Day. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo warned that if the trajectory continues, Harris County likely will need a stay-home period like the spring.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/harris-county-blood-covid-antibody-survey-15725236.php#photo-20256793

 

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