Oregon community members who participate in this project are helping enable a more effective response to COVID-19.
TRACE Community testing has been conducted in multiple communities since April 2020, including in Corvallis, Bend, Newport, Hermiston and Eugene. TRACE wastewater analysis is being provided in numerous Oregon communities in cooperation with a grant from the Oregon Health Authority. TRACE teams have visited randomly selected households in a representative set of neighborhoods in each community. Participants receive a home test kit from TRACE field staff, use the kit inside their home and then return it to the TRACE staff. Testing will continue throughout the year in Corvallis, Bend and Newport.
Participants in the TRACE project are helping public health leaders understand the prevalence of the virus that causes COVID-19 in their communities and how prevalence is changing over time. With a clearer understanding of how the virus spreads, public health leaders and health care providers can make informed decisions about policies, as well as the use of time and resources to slow the spread of the virus and minimize its impacts. The results also help community members make personal decisions about their own health care and that of family members.
A team of scientists and public health experts at Oregon State University developed a simple, painless TRACE-COVID-19 home test kit. During TRACE Community testing, the kits are provided by TRACE team members to a predetermined, representative set of households that agree to participate in the project.
Trained TRACE Community field crews visit randomly selected homes and ask if individuals are willing to participate in TRACE. If the answer is “yes,” the crew leaves the test kit in a sanitized container with instructions on how household members should utilize the kit. The sampling kit includes a nasal swab, a plastic tube with a liquid used to inactivate the virus and to preserve the sample for analysis, a plastic bag and a disinfectant wipe to sanitize the bag.
These simple, self-administered tests collect material from the entrance of a participant’s nose. They are quick, more comfortable and less invasive than nasopharyngeal swabs seen in the media, which collect nasal secretions from the back of the nose and throat.
After using the kit, participating individuals leave it outside their home. TRACE field staff, who have been waiting outside, pick up the kit and completed samples and transport them to the testing laboratory for a federally certified analysis.
Wastewater samples are also tested for COVID-19 virus markers. The concentrations of remnants of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) are quantified in these samples. Given that everyone contributes to the composition of a community’s wastewater, this strategy provides another layer of evidence to determine if COVID-19 is present in a community and a general sense of the level of infection in that community. TRACE Community will continue to conduct wastewater surveillance in Corvallis, Bend and Newport this fall. OSU will notify the local county health department if wastewater sampling detects the presence of the virus.