WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Health want to find out just how many people are affected by the coronavirus through a new study and state leaders hope it could help them determine when to reopen the state.
The COVID-19 Community Research Partnership asks volunteers to send in blood samples to see if they have coronavirus antibodies.
Researchers said it's highly likely that those with antibodies have had the virus even if they didn't show symptoms.
"People who receive the kits will also receive instructions. Doing the finger prick themselves, and it's very similar to a figure prick for like doing a blood glucose test at home," said Wake Forest Baptist Health chief of infectious disease Dr. John Sanders.
He said the hospital in coordination with Atrium Health will collect those samples over several months. Volunteers--who come from the hospitals' patient base--can submit their results in real-time.
About 1,000 of those test kits have already been distributed.
"We hope to have 25,000 tests out in the first monthly installment," said Sanders.
State senator Phil Berger said the implications of that study could reach further, helping lawmakers decide how to reopen our state.
He said it's possible reopening could be done in phases like allowing restaurants to reopen with lower capacity or asking those more at risk to continue to self-isolate.
"I think all of that is really dependent on what kind of confidence we have in the prevalence overall of the virus in the population," said Berger, "At least having better data on what that number is gives us a better perspective of how many people are infected and will need health resources."
Berger said Wednesday he has not spoken to Governor Cooper about any plans to reopen North Carolina.
The state legislature gave $100,000 to help get Wake Forest Baptist's study off the ground.
Berger is hopeful they'll be able to look at some of that data before the state's stay at home order expires later this month.
Doctor Sanders said there should be a small number of results back by then and said that could give a hint of how far the disease has spread, but it will not be a full picture.
Sanders said the hospital and others are in funding talks with the CDC and NIH. He said if the study spreads to other areas it's price tag could enter the tens of millions of dollars.