According to the New Orleans Agenda newsletter, a new study directed by Ochsner Heath began offering free COVID-19 antibody testing May 9 for New Orleans and Jefferson Parish residents. Councilmembers Jason Williams and Helen Moreno spearheaded the operation by receiving testing themselves and urging residents to register at TestNOLA.org.
"This citywide antibody testing will also help us determine how much of the population has been infected by and recovered from the coronavirus," said Councilman Williams. "All health experts agree that this step is essential for safely reopening the economy."
The testing consists of a nasal swab and blood sample that will be used to assess whether that individual has developed antibodies that would indicate they were previously or are currently infected by COVID-19.
Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the coinciding limited testing capacities within Orleans Parish, there remains a lack of information regarding the infection rate among the city's population. According to Ochsner Health, they plan to enroll at least 2,500 residents in what they call "one of the first and most comprehensive prevalence studies in the country."
This analysis will help health officials establish virus hot spots within the city and, hopefully, aid in the proper distribution of resources to those most at risk. "The people of New Orleans need to know not only that their city leaders recognize the racial disparities in COVID-19 impact, but that we are working hard here to ensure every resident of this city has access to this testing," said Councilman Williams.
An article on NOLA.com reports that there are distinct discrepancies within the city concerning the rate of infection. In predominantly African American communities, the spread of COVID-19 is much higher than among neighboring white populations.
"Those without access to quality care before COVID-19 are often the ones struggling to access diagnostic testing now," said Councilman Williams, who alluded to the potential obstacles regarding access to testing, including transportation and financial resources.
The importance of free and accessible antibody testing cannot be overstated. "The results will provide the first true snapshot of exactly how many people were infected by COVID-19," said Councilman Williams.
"We need as many people to sign up as possible, so that researchers can ensure there is an adequate sample representative of the demographics of our region," said Councilwoman Moreno.
Authorities urge residents who have previously contracted the virus to remain cautious and continue exercising proper social distancing protocols because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 immunity and, subsequently, the likelihood of reinfection.
To participate, residents can call (504) 703-8283 or sign up at TestNOLA.org. Insurance is not required; however, participants must be residents of either Orleans or Jefferson Parish, be over the age of 18, and have not previously tested positive for COVID-19.If selected, participants will receive a confirmation with details.