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How widespread has COVID-19 been in Orleans, Jefferson? New study will try to find out

The study hopes to see just how widespread the virus has been and which areas - zip codes, neighborhoods - have been hardest hit.

NEW ORLEANS — A new study conducted by Ochsner Health will try to find out just how many people in the Orleans and Jefferson Parish areas have actually been infected with COVID-19.

So far, about 13,000 people in the two parishes have been confirmed to have COVID-19, but considering that a large number of people don't display symptoms, the belief is that the number is much higher.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell has said that widespread community immunity is part of what will get our economy back up to full speed.

City Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President Jason Williams filmed a video with Ochsner Health Systems to encourage participation in the study. 

Both received the antibody blood test and the COVID-19 nasal swab.

"By us figuring out exactly where we stand with this particular prevalence study, we're going to be able to figure out where do we need to allocate more resources to? Are there specific hotspots that we need to focus on?" said Moreno Thursday.

A clearer picture will also help us learn if the New Orleans area is gaining herd immunity.

Moreno said, despite reports of varying accuracy in COVID-19 antibody tests, Ochsner chose a carefully vetted and accurate test for this study.

She and Williams are hoping residents from all corners of New Orleans sign up.

When asked if Moreno or Williams tested positive for the virus, Moreno said.

"I mean, I will say this. Both of us had really hoped that we would test positive for the antibodies so that we've already gone through this. But unfortunately, both of us tested negative. We tested negative for the virus and tested negative for the antibodies. "

The study hopes to see just how widespread the virus has been and which areas - zip codes, neighborhoods - have been hardest hit along with which groups by race, gender and age.

“To support our community through this unprecedented pandemic, we are putting resources into not only treating, but understanding the virus,” said Dr. Leonardo Seoane, Chief Academic Officer, Ochsner Health. “Research and clinical studies being conducted across our organization will help our hospitals, businesses and local leaders recover and prepare for COVID-19’s ongoing impact.” 

To participate you must:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Must be a resident of Orleans or Jefferson Parish
  • Must not have tested positive for COVID-19 previously

You sign up for the testing at testnola.org

The study hopes to include about 2,500 participants and will include both a nose swab and a blood test. 

RELATED: Louisiana reaches 200K COVID-19 tests performed; number of new cases, hospitalizations drop

How Does It Work?

People who are interested in participating should enroll online at testnola.org. Participants will be contacted if they are selected for the study via a text message with testing location details. Testing sites are located throughout Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. 

Upon arrival at a designated testing center, participants will provide verbal consent and complete a brief survey. Testing includes a nasal swab (COVID-19 test) and a blood draw (COVID-19 antibody test). This process takes approximately 10 minutes from start to finish. Participants will receive their test results by online within 24-72 hours. 

Participants are encouraged to enroll in Ochsner’s secure online patient portal, MyChart prior to getting tested to expedite the process. You can sign up for an account here.

RELATED: Track COVID-19: Louisiana Coronavirus Outbreak Map

RELATED: What the coronavirus numbers say about cases in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and St. John

Why Should People Participate?

Data collected in this study will provide a clearer picture of the spread of COVID-19 in the Orleans and Jefferson Parish communities. Because testing was limited when COVID-19 first occurred locally, it’s possible that many residents who were infected do 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.

Testing is also completely free of charge for participants.

Where Can I Learn More?

Visit testnola.org or call 504-703-8283 for more information or to enroll. To learn more about Ochsner, please visit www.ochsner.org/coronavirus.