Starting Sunday, public health workers will ask residents to answer a brief survey and voluntarily give a blood sample to be tested for antibodies, the proteins found in people that have already had the novel coronavirus.
“The purpose of this project is to determine the extent of community spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Deborah Bujnowski, Data Analytics Manager for Harris County Public Health.
Dr. Bujnowski hopes the survey and test results will give a clearer picture of how often people with COVID have mild or no symptoms. Typically, people who get tested at county sites are showing symptoms.
"This will help us to inform future prevention strategies,” said Dr. Bujnowski.
The teams will knock on the doors of hundreds of randomly selected homes in parts of Harris County outside of Houston through December 15.
"When we go door to door, our team will be wearing yellow vests that will clearly identify them as being part of this project," Dr. Bujnowski explained. "They'll have their ID badges with them as well, and we will not be asking them for any information about finances or collecting any money."
The county is partnering with Baylor College of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and the Houston Health Department.
The city launched a similar effort in September.
“Because we have our two separate health departments, we need to make sure that we’re working in collaboration so that we can get a full view of what’s happening with rates of infection,” said Dr. Bujkowski.
City and county health officials also hope these surveys give them a better idea of how long those antibodies stay in people's bodies, which is still unclear.
Dr. Bujkowski says teams will follow up in the spring to re-measure antibody levels in fall participants to record any changes.