Health department employees accompanied by a Houston Fire Department paramedic will ask randomly chosen residents to fill out a brief health questionnaire and provide a blood sample through a finger prick, Houston Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said.
“Its completely voluntary,” he said. “It will help us find the neighborhoods that may have been more severely impacted than we realized.”
The antibody test differs from diagnostic tests taken with mouth and nasal swabs because it detects a previous immune response to the virus rather than an active infection.
A first phase of testing will take place Sept. 8-24 and will be followed by a second phase in January 2021.
Working with the Centers for Disease Control, Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University, the health department will use the results of the surveys not only to find areas of town that may need more outreach efforts but also to learn more about the nature of the coronavirus antibody response.
Those who tested positive in the first round of testing will be asked to get tested again in January, Persse said. Doing so will help the researchers understand how quickly antibody levels fall, if at all, in less than six months.
“This will help us understand what this virus is doing, how we can get ahead of it and how we can get back on track,” Persse said.