ALBANY — An Augusta University Health research project that starts next week will give a picture of how many Dougherty County residents have been infected with the novel coronavirus. It also will alert individuals who may have some protection from the virus after they were exposed but did not become ill.
Many people who were infected had little or no symptoms, so the study will help paint a picture of the extent of exposure to the overall community.
During the pandemic 180 coronavirus-positive Dougherty County residents have died of COVID-19. As of Wednesday there were 3,043 confirmed cases of the virus among Dougherty County residents.
The antibody testing is being funded jointly by the city of Albany, Dougherty County and the Dougherty County School System at a total cost of $162,000.
“I want to thank the city of Albany, Dougherty County School System, and Augusta University for their partnership on this project,” Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said. “I’m extremely thankful for the expertise that Dr. Phillip Coule and the staff at Augusta University have provided for our region and want to encourage Dougherty County residents to take part in this testing that is crucial to our community.”
Antibody tests show whether a person’s immune system has responded to the infection but does not test for active infections. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 or were exposed to it may have antibodies in their blood that may help fight off future infections of the disease.
Officials are using the data to help guide decisions on closures and other recommendations as the pandemic continues.
“Beyond the basic tenets of hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks, we have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to controlling COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Coule, vice president and chief medical officer for Augusta University Health. “Antibody studies allow local communities to have more information about infection rates and to make decisions based on the results in their region.”
Tests will be conducted between Sept. 16-29 at the Albany Civic Center, 100 W. Oglethorpe Blvd.
Tests are limited and appointments are required.
Employees with the county public school system can set up an appointment by calling (706) 721-9740. Other Dougherty County residents can set up an appointment by calling (706) 721-4905.
The test, which requires a blood draw, takes about 10 minutes, and participants also will be asked to complete a research survey.
Results will be sent via Augusta University Health System’s Virtually Informed Patient VIP Portal.
“Representatives of Augusta University believe the testing will have profound implications for the state and the country, due to the large number of people here in Dougherty County who have been infected,” said Albany Mayor Bo Dorough. “All citizens, including those who previously tested positive for COVID-19, are encouraged to make an appointment and participate in the community antibody testing.”