North Carolina legislature funding at-home COVID-19 antibody test study to help determine when to reopen the economy

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina legislature is funding a year-long study that they hope will help state officials determine when they can safely reopen the economy.

The state legislature provided $100,000 to Wake Forest University for 1,000 at-home antibody test kits to be used in the study.

In a news release, North Carolina Senator Phil Berger said antibodies can be detected in the blood 14 days after the start of symptoms.

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The test kits were provided by Scanwell Health and will be provided to participants every month for one year to track the virus and immunity over time.

Participants in a subset of the main study will use an at-home antibody test kit to prick their finger, and the test will use a drop of blood to identify whether it contains COVID-19 antibodies.

Currently, no at-home coronavirus tests have been approved by the FDA.

If antibodies are present, it would signal with a high probability that the person has already had the virus.

Researchers will use the proportion of people in the representative sample who have antibodies to extrapolate the prevalence of immunity to the larger population.

Early study participants were identified through Wake Forest Baptist's patient platform.

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The study funded by the General Assembly will help legislators make decisions in the coming weeks.

"This groundbreaking Wake Forest Baptist Health study, led by Dr. John Sanders, will fill a critical data gap that's been missing for many weeks, and will help us learn if the true situation is better or worse than the models project. Nobody knows the true hospitalization and fatality rates for this virus, even as the government has ordered a full-scale economic shutdown," said Senate Leader Phil Berger in a written statement.

The Wake Forest Baptist study is led by Dr. John Sanders and Dr. David Herrington in collaboration with Dr. Michael Runyon and Dr. Michael Gibbs at Atrium Health. They have worked closely with Oracle, Scanwell Health, Javara, and other health systems across the country. Stanford epidemiologist Dr. John Ioannidis is also collaborating.

Government officials said data-driven evidence is needed for people to comply with orders and to support a continued shutdown. If the data shows the situation is worse than previously projected, officials say people will comply and have confidence in the current public health strategy and government orders.

If the data can show the situation is better than projected, Berger said, more will have confidence that an unwinding of the shutdown can be done safely.
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