Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital said today they've begun recruiting 1,000 people in East Boston, Roslindale and in 02121 and 02125 for antibody testing that might help show just how widespread the virus is in those communities.
Mayor Walsh announced the testing this morning, in which people who have not shown any Covid-19 symptoms will be asked to give a small blood sample, taken through a finger prick, to see if they have any antibodies to the virus - which would indicate they've been exposed to the virus. Researchers have said large numbers of people infected with the virus never show any symptoms, which has ramifications for determining how to combat it until a vaccine is release, because asymptomatic people can still spread the virus.
The testing is different from the testing done on people showing signs of infection, such as a fever and breathing problems, which involves the use of a long swab to take a sample that is then tested for active viral particles.
Similar testing done by MGH in Chelsea, which has by far the highest Covid-19 rate in the state, showed that some 30% of residents may have been exposed to the virus.
Participation in the study is entirely voluntary for residents who have been contacted, is available to them on a first come, first serve basis up to 1,000 residents, and residents will not be charged for testing. Testing for this study is expected to be completed by May 1, and summary data of the the compiled results will be made publicly available, including the numbers and percentage of residents who test positive for the COVID-19 virus and COVID-19 antibodies, both within the neighborhoods included and the total study group tested. In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), no personal information from any participants will be shared.
Both East Boston and the two Dorchester Zip codes currently have some of the highest infection rates in the city, according to figures the Boston Public Health Commission released Thursday: 146.6 cases per 10,000 residents in East Boston and 136.6 per 10,000 residents in 02125, which is in Dorchester, and 02121, which includes parts of Dorchester and Roxbury. Roslindale's rate was 119.9. The neighborhoods with the highest rates were Hyde Park, with 180.3, and Mattapan, with 148.7.
The news comes on the heels of an announcement by the city to begin universal virus testing of everybody who comes into Boston homeless shelters over the next couple of weeks.