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Baton Rouge seeking volunteers for medical study to determine prevalence of COVID-19 in capital area

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BATON ROUGE- Leaders in the capital area have announced a new "COVID-19 Prevalence Study" to determine the impact and spread of coronavirus. The study will include free testing to represent a sample of Baton Rouge residents.

Available testing will include both COVID-19 PCR testing and antibody testing, both free of charge.

According to the medical advice network, the PCR tests can be used to detect the virus, or the presence of antigen, rather than antibodies.

The study is led by researchers at Ochsner, in cooperation with Pennington Biomedical.

“At Ochsner, we know the last few months have been challenging for all of us. We are proud to lead this important study that will help us understand more about the prevalence and impact of COVID-19 in the greater Baton Rouge region,” Warner Thomas said, president and CEO, Ochsner Health. “This is the second prevalence study that Ochsner has been part of, and we are committed to learning more about this virus to build a healthier and stronger Louisiana.”

The study will be analyzed by Ochsner Principal Investigator Amy Feehan, PhD, to determine how widespread the virus is in the area and which populations have been impacted the most.

This information will help inform ongoing community reopening plans and provide healthcare providers and leaders with more information about the novel virus. This is the first study of its kind in the Baton Rouge region, which has recently experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“Since COVID-19 began, Baton Rouge has worked to find innovative ways to protect its people. We were the first parish to conduct drive-thru community testing, and we will continue to put our community first to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our residents,” Sharon Weston Broome said, Mayor-President, City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. “We encourage residents to join this important study, which will provide us with valuable data about the spread of the virus in our community.”

“It is so important that we put resources into not only treating, but also understanding the virus,” John Kirwan said, Ph.D., executive director, Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “The research that we are conducting will help our area hospitals, businesses and local leaders to better prepare for and recover from the ongoing impact of COVID-19.”

The launch of this study comes just two weeks after results from Ochsner’s Jefferson and Orleans Parish Prevalence Study were unveiled. Over 2,600 volunteers participated in that study in mid-May, which concluded a prevalence of 7.8%. The study also found that 75% of those with an active infection were asymptomatic or presymptomatic and approximately 40% of individuals with COVID-19 never experience symptoms. To learn more about results from the study, click here.

The goal is to enroll a minimum of 1,500 participants in the study, representing a "mini Baton Rouge," according to the release. 

Residents of all races, ethnicities, ages, and neighborhoods are encouraged to volunteer.

Participants must be...

- 18 years or older

- A resident of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension or Livingston Parish

- Must not have tested positive for COVID-19 previously

- Individuals who have previously tested negative for COVID-19 are eligible


Those interested in participating can visit  TestBR.org. People will be contacted directly if they are selected for the study via a text message with testing location details. Private testing sites for participants only are located throughout the Baton Rouge area. If you are unable to enroll online, you may call 504-703-8283 for assistance.

According to the Ochsner news release, the data collected in this study will provide a clearer picture of the spread of COVID-19 in Baton Rouge. Because testing was limited when COVID-19 first occurred locally, it’s possible that many residents who were infected did not know if they had the virus. Those who participate are providing valuable information that will help the region better understand and recover from the impact of COVID-19.


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