A team of investigators and researchers at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health have launched a new study to better understand the current spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the Novel Coronavirus) in the Bay Area, and the effects of social and physical distancing strategies. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
Lisa F. Barcellos, professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at BSPH is leading the team with Eva Harris, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at BSPH, and chair of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity Graduate Group at UC Berkeley. Barcellos noted that the study “is designed to understand the prevalence of undetected coronavirus infections among adults in the Bay Area without symptoms.”
“Our goal is to determine how many people may have been previously infected with the virus without knowing it, because they had a mild illness or did not have access to testing while they were sick,” said Barcellos.
“The results will help demonstrate the extent to which the novel coronavirus has spread undetected in the Bay Area and provide insights into which communities and populations are most affected,” she said. “This critical data will help us measure the impact of the current public health efforts such as shelter-in-place, and will help guide the COVID-19 response moving forward.”
In the initial phase of this study, all households in the East Bay communities of Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, Kensington and Hercules are invited to participate. Recently, every home address within the study sampling region was mailed a postcard inviting one volunteer per household of 18 years or older to participate in the study.
Volunteers are asked to consent to enrollment for initial screening, which only takes 10 minutes. After enrollment, study participants will be e-mailed a link to complete a health assessment questionnaire and provide contact information, basic demographic information (including age, race, ethnicity, sex, occupation), and other information about their immediate household members.
The investigators will randomly select 5,000 to 6,000 individuals from the study participants who provided screening information to participate in the study for an at-home swab, saliva and finger-prick blood sample collection and completion of further questionnaires.
Each study participant will receive an at-home sample collection test kit with detailed instructions on collecting samples (including an instructional video link) and returning the kit to UC Berkeley for further analysis in the laboratory.
Barcellos noted that the at-home sample collection kits are safe and easy-to-use. “By providing these samples, study participants can help researchers fight COVID-19 from the privacy of their homes,” said Barcellos.
“Investigators will test oral and nasal swab and saliva samples for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (active infection) and blood samples for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which are proteins produced by the immune system in response to a specific infectious agent and indicate a previous infection.”
Barcellos added that privacy is very important to the study. “Any personal contact information you provide for the screening questionnaire will be stored securely, used only for secure research-related communication with you, and not shared with anyone outside of the study investigators at UC Berkeley,” said Barcellos.
For more information on this study, visit covic19survey.berkeley.edu. To learn more about the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.coronavirus.gov.