The research team will comb 30 environment Bends next weekend asking residents to be tested and nose rubbing for COVID-19.
The team is part of the effort with Oregon-Cascades State University and OSU faculty researchers at Corvallis and Deschutes County, Health Services which has launched a study called Team-based Rapid Assessment for Community Level Corona Epidemic, or TRACE-COVID-19.
Their aim is to find out how common COVID-19 is in society. Since the beginning of the pandemic only symptoms that show, cough, fever and shortness of breath, have been tested for COVID-19.
Results from a two-week testing of 1,100 Corvallis residents showed that the virus was not as prevalent as some people had predicted. Preliminary findings indicate two people per 1,000 have the virus in a voluntary test conducted the weekend of April 25.
The final round of testing at Corvallis will take place later in June.
“This has been blurred in the last few weeks,” said lead investigator Jeff Bethel, who is also professor of epidemiology at OSU-Corvallis College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “We identified gaps (in testing) and we want to better determine the prevalence in the COVID-19 community. Our research fills the knowledge gap. “
The same test and sampling will be done in Bend using 30 U.S. Census block locations, Bethel said. The results will be emailed and sent to volunteers within seven to 10 days, Bethel said.
About 650 people will be asked to volunteer to be tested, Bethel said. That happened when the number of cases in Deschutes County exploded to 117 on Thursday. Just one day nine people tested positive last week, according to regional health data.
Commission Chair Patti Adair and Commissioner Tony DeBone said they were not worried about the increase in cases, saying that this increase was a reflection of districts that were doing more testing.
Adair said the county had jumped from testing from about 400 to 500 people per week to 900, and the number of positive results remained below 2% of those tested. The state’s revised testing guidelines on April 22 include people who have no symptoms and work in health care settings.
He said he was still in favor of reopening the district when it was done on May 15.
“It seems scary when you see 6 and 9 (cases), but then you say ‘Oh, they tested nearly 900 people,’ and it makes sense there are more people,” Adair said on Thursday.
Health officials cannot pinpoint the cause of the surge in cases in Deschutes County, but they attribute the positive growth of COVID-19 test results to family or social gatherings, said Morgan Emerson, a spokeswoman for Deschutes County Health Services.
“When we looked at all (117) of our cases, about 70% were considered community spread, with no known links to other individuals who tested positive for COVID-19,” Emerson said in an email. “Some of these meetings involve many families who live in several households that gather together.”
Positive cases were identified through contact tracing from public health workers who interviewed people who had tested positive for the virus to see who they were in contact with during the infection, Emerson said.
It is still too early to say whether the increase in cases in Deschutes County is caused by the reopening of the economy. People start showing symptoms 4-14 days after exposure. Many cases reported last week originated from contacts that occurred before the 15th reopening date.
On Friday Charles Bend does not have COVID-19 patients, said Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief executive of the doctor of St. Charles. As the testing guidelines shift, more testing is being done, Absalon said. The hospital has expanded testing to patients seeking non-emergency surgery. Some patients who have no symptoms are positive.
“That underlines what we know about this disease: People can be contagious but without symptoms,” Absalon said. “Your actions do affect other people.”
At the same time, OSU researchers spread, wastewater samples will be collected from cities to test genetic material that causes COVID-19. The purpose of this wastewater study is to provide an overview of how prevalent viruses are in the community. While the virus cannot survive as a pathogenic agent in wastewater, infected people pass the detected genetic component of the virus into the sewer system, according to an OSU press release.
“People around Oregon and nationwide want to find out how prevalent the COVID-19 virus is in their local communities,” said Becky Johnson, vice president of OSU-Cascades. “I am very pleased OSU-Cascades can collaborate with Deschutes County Health Services and colleagues at Oregon State University in Corvallis to expand TRACE studies to Bend, especially when the community reopens.”