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Door-to-Door Study Expected To Identify More COVID-19 Cases In Benton County

Photo Courtesy of OSU (Credit:Karl Maasdam)

The Benton County Health Department is anticipating a bump in positive COVID-19 cases after expanded testing in Corvallis. New results could be the outcome of Oregon State University’s door-to-door study.

The OSU Team-based Rapid Assessment of Community Level Coronavirus Epidemics, or TRACE-COVID-19 study, is currently underway with samples being collected on weekends through May 16. OSU Epidemiologist Jeff Bethel says the project has been going well.

“We’re getting a pretty positive response from the community. Most have been eager to participate, so that’s been great to see,” Bethel is one of the lead investigators on the TRACE project.

Credit Photo Courtesy of OSU (Credit:Karl Maasdam)
Photo shows how TRACE team members and individuals exchange sample kits without direct contact during the pilot phase.

The project is one of the first in the nation to test a community for overall health of individuals. It involves team members visiting random households and offering nasal-swab test kits that they self-administer.

“Conducting this type of project in this setting, it provides some challenges, but we’re excited that we’re in full swing,” he says.

Samples from both the pilot and the official launch are currently being tested by the Willamette Valley Toxicology Lab. In total, the TRACE project is expected to conduct close to 4,000 tests.

Meanwhile, Benton County spokesperson Lili’a Neville says people shouldn’t be alarmed if they see an increase in positive cases, especially with state and national reopening efforts weighing on downward trends.

“By participating in this research study it’s likely that we’re going to see an actual uptick of positive case results because of the fact that we’ve had such limited testing capacity,” says Neville. “Flooding our community with this number of tests, we anticipate is going to result in an upwards trajectory.”

As of April 29, Benton County has 29 positive cases of COVID-19 and 5 suspected deaths, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

“We haven’t had a big spike like our neighboring county Linn County, we really just pick up one or two at a time, so if we pick up say 10 or 15 at a time, that’s going to create alarm within our community,” she says.

At the moment, Benton County doesn’t have a way to distinguish between OSU results and other cases, Neville adds. She says an increase in cases from the study is not considered an obstacle to re-opening the county, when that time comes. 

“We’re just so grateful for this partnership…[we look] forward to seeing what the study might bring to light in terms of providing global knowledge around understanding this new and challenging virus.”

© 2020 KLCC

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.