Harris Co. preparing to test random residents for COVID-19 antibodies

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Even after eight months of the pandemic, which has sickened nearly 168,000 people during that time, Harris County health officials say there's still a lot to be learned about COVID-19's spread throughout the most populous county in Texas.

On Tuesday, Harris County Public Health announced plans for a month-long survey of randomly selected residents, in which blood samples are taken to test for virus antibodies.

According to HCPH, its outreach teams will be at various county areas from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, each day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will be identifiable with yellow vests and workers will be carrying identification cards.

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The county noted only homes approached by the teams are eligible to participate and participation is voluntary.

In addition to the blood samples, participants would be asked survey questions.

The county says it wants to understand how vulnerable the community remains to the virus, and how frequently asymptomatic or mild cases occur.

The health department also said it hopes to reach these following goals:
  • Understand what caused COVID-19 to spread in certain areas.
  • Understand how COVID-19 has spread in Harris County.
  • Understand how COVID-19 transmission and infection rates differ among communities.
  • Determine the effectiveness of containment strategies that have been utilized during the pandemic.
  • Identify the percentage of Harris County residents infected with COVID-19 with no symptoms.
  • Improve public health messaging to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

"This survey is a very important way that local residents can help public health workers fight this virus," said Dr. Umair A. Shah, HCPH's Executive Director and local health authority for Harris County. "By finding out how widespread the illness is, we can develop strategies that will help us control the spread of COVID-19."

The results will also help policy makers in future decision making, which includes things like the county's COVID-19 threat level.

A check of the county's COVID-19 dashboard on Tuesday showed a little over 29,000 active cases and 2,309 deaths so far between Harris County and the city of Houston.

The county's positivity rate was at 8.3% as of Monday.



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