ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County will be part of a COVID-19 prevalence study by FirstHealth of the Carolinas in which the hospital will collect data to determine the scope and spread of the virus in the county and region.
As part of the study, county residents who are at least 18 years old will be able to get free COVID-19 antibody tests. These tests will determine whether a person was previously infected with the virus, not whether they currently have an active case of it. The test involves having blood drawn.
Dr. Gretchen Arnoczy, FirstHealth’s infectious diseases expert, will lead the study, which will also seek to answer questions about which populations have been most impacted. Recent publications estimate an average of 40 to 50% of COVID-19 cases are mild or asymptomatic and go undetected in communities, according to a press release.
“Like many areas of the country, central North Carolina has had limitations in testing availability, particularly in the early phase of the epidemic,” Arnoczy said in a statement. “As of mid-June, our current testing positivity rate for our system is approximately 10%. Our testing has included not only symptomatic people presenting to our clinics and hospitals but also asymptomatic people being evaluated during outbreak settings.”
Those who wish to participate must be residents of Richmond County and enroll online at www.firsthealth.org/COVIDstudy. FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital – Richmond on Long Drive in Rockingham will conduct the tests between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. The deadline to enroll is Aug. 5.
Participants will be screened for COVID-19 prior to entering the building and must wear a mask.
FirstHealth asks that participants enroll in its online patient portal, MyChart, prior to testing in order to expedite the process and allow participants to access their results within 24 or 72 hours. To register for FirstHealth MyChart, visit www.firsthealthmychart.org.
The hospital will be offering the free antibody tests throughout its service area, which includes Moore, Montgomery, Hoke, Lee and Randolph counties, according to Emily Sloan, director of public relations for FirstHealth. The Moore, Hoke, Lee and Randolph county events will begin in the coming weeks.
Sloan said the hospital aims to enroll 500 Richmond County residents for participation in the study.
It’s unclear where funding for this study came from, whether the results of the study will be public and how long it will take to complete. Sloan did not respond to inquiries about these points by press time.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]