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City, Mass. General partner on coronavirus antibody testing in East Boston, Roslindale and parts of Dorchester and Roxbury

Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital said today they've begun recruiting 1,000 people in East Boston, Roslindale and in 02121 and 02125 for antibody testing that might help show just how widespread the virus is in those communities.

Mayor Walsh announced the testing this morning, in which people who have not shown any Covid-19 symptoms will be asked to give a small blood sample, taken through a finger prick, to see if they have any antibodies to the virus - which would indicate they've been exposed to the virus. Researchers have said large numbers of people infected with the virus never show any symptoms, which has ramifications for determining how to combat it until a vaccine is release, because asymptomatic people can still spread the virus.

The testing is different from the testing done on people showing signs of infection, such as a fever and breathing problems, which involves the use of a long swab to take a sample that is then tested for active viral particles.

Similar testing done by MGH in Chelsea, which has by far the highest Covid-19 rate in the state, showed that some 30% of residents may have been exposed to the virus.

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary for residents who have been contacted, is available to them on a first come, first serve basis up to 1,000 residents, and residents will not be charged for testing. Testing for this study is expected to be completed by May 1, and summary data of the the compiled results will be made publicly available, including the numbers and percentage of residents who test positive for the COVID-19 virus and COVID-19 antibodies, both within the neighborhoods included and the total study group tested. In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), no personal information from any participants will be shared.

Both East Boston and the two Dorchester Zip codes currently have some of the highest infection rates in the city, according to figures the Boston Public Health Commission released Thursday: 146.6 cases per 10,000 residents in East Boston and 136.6 per 10,000 residents in 02125, which is in Dorchester, and 02121, which includes parts of Dorchester and Roxbury. Roslindale's rate was 119.9. The neighborhoods with the highest rates were Hyde Park, with 180.3, and Mattapan, with 148.7.

The news comes on the heels of an announcement by the city to begin universal virus testing of everybody who comes into Boston homeless shelters over the next couple of weeks.

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Comments

I have seen warnings that there are scammers going door-to-door pretending to be testing for COVID-19. So the announcement of this study should come with a clear explanation about how the study is reaching out to potential participants, and that they are not going door-to-door.

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Voting closed 27

I would love to know...live in Eastie, work in Chelsea, have not shown any symptoms but I suspect I already had it. I would like to know if I have the antibodies because we are being asked to help volunteer with the National Guard response...I know that antibodies may not 100% prove immunity, but it would give me some peace of mind.

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Voting closed 19

From the city:

Outreach will be done by email, no calls. A randomized list of residents living in the selected sampling areas (East Boston, Roslindale and within the boundaries of zip codes 02121 and 02125 in Dorchester) will be receiving an email from the City (Boston.gov email account) inviting them to participate in the study.

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Voting closed 12

This testing will produce interesting results. But the best way to see what’s going on is not to look in specific zip codes, or to isolate people who haven’t shown symptoms. What we need here in Boston as well as around the country is a test that’s similar to public opinion polls, where they can take a few hundred people and fairly accurately project the results for everyone.

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02131 for Rozzie

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I missed a sentence in the announcement: Seems people will be getting both kinds of tests - one to see if they're currently infected (the swab up the nose) and one to see if they've been infected in the past (the finger needle prick).

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Shouldn’t one of those 02121s be an 02125?

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Thanks, fixed.

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Correct. Primary goal is to obtain a baseline of covid cases in a randomized population. Antibody tests will tell you if someone has been exposed. RNA (active virus) tests will tell you is someone is actively infected but asymptomatic. Secondary goal might be to validate antibody tests. I would guess that if you have active virus then you would most likely have antibodies. Accuracy of antibody tests in unknown at this point.

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Voting closed 12

...with their acronyms.

It's "HIPAA," not the phonetic "HIPPA."

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Please there is no significance is saying 146 per 10,000 -- It's an apparent 1%

We don't need to know that its 1.2% here and 1.7% there -- those are irrelevant differences. As for quoting a rate of 119.9 /10,000 based on a few hundred samples -- that's the equivalent of visiting 10 gas stations and quoting an average price per 100 gallons of $183.37 instead of saying $1.83 per gallon

However -- We need to know is it 1% here and 25% there -- those would be significant differences

All of the previous tests looking for antibodies in the finger-prick blood sample have found that the population with antibodies is anywhere from 20 to 80 Times [not %] greater than those who have been tested by the nasal swab and shown to be positive to the virus itself

Based on the LA County, NYC and several other relatively well-controlled studies of antibodies in the general public -- Boston is likely to be in the 10%+ range -- but let's see what this study shows

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