The Washington State Department of Health, UW Medicine, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation today announced the launch of a major study to determine the percentage of Washingtonians who have been infected by COVID-19. UW Medicine’s Virology Laboratory will conduct the study in close partnership with state and local public health agencies, sampling across rural and urban populations throughout the state and within racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse communities.
“Data is a crucial tool in helping us fight this pandemic and safely reopening our economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This study and partnership will provide vital insights about the trajectory of COVID-19 in Washington, informing our response and allowing us to better protect Washingtonians.”
All 7,000 study participants will receive a diagnostic COVID-19 test followed by three antibody tests over the course of eight months. By including 7,000 participants, the study will provide statistically valid information about the distribution of COVID-19 in communities within our state. The results of the first antibody tests will indicate the baseline prevalence of infection to date. In addition to infection rates, the study will examine how long COVID-19 antibodies persist. This will inform the Department of Health’s assessments and safety guidelines to control COVID-19 infections in communities across the state.
“As one of the first in the country to develop a COVID-19 test, UW Medicine has invested millions of dollars to build significant capacity for both COVID-19 and antibody testing at scale,” said Dr. Keith Jerome, head of the Virology Division at UW Medicine. Jerome is the principal investigator of the study and directs multiple virology labs. Dr. Mark Wener, who directs the Immunology Division, will serve as the co-investigator and assist in the implementation.
The antibody tests will be processed at the UW Medicine Virology Lab, using the Abbott Architect SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay, which has been shown to have an extremely high degree of accuracy, to ensure that the resulting data is valid for use in statewide policy decisions. UW Medicine scientists were involved in evaluating the specificity of the test and are confident of its accuracy.
This study is funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and builds on the Foundation’s previous support of UW Medicine’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which has raised more than $30 million to date.
“Comprehensive, high-quality data that statistically represents Washington’s diverse communities and populations is critical to support the state’s healthcare response and reopening,” said Jody Allen, co-founder and chair of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “This statewide study will provide a necessary baseline understanding of COVID-19 presence in communities to inform smart policy decisions as we all move forward with Washington’s economic and health recovery.”