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Houston Health Department introduces COVID-19 antibody testing survey

The Houston Health Department announced a testing survey to understand how many people in the city were previously infected with the coronavirus.

HOUSTON — The Houston Health Department on Wednesday announced a COVID-19 antibody testing survey to better understand the spread of the virus in the city.

The survey, in collaboration with the CDC, Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, will identify people previously infected with COVID-19 by the presence of antibodies, proteins the body’s immune system makes to fight infections. Antibody testing does not replace oral or nasal swab viral testing that looks for current COVID-19 infection.

Dr. David Persse, Houston Health Authority, said teams of HHD employees and and Houston Fire Department paramedics will visit randomly selected homes across the city. These teams will ask household members to answer survey questions and provide a blood sample.

Phase 1 is set to take place Sept. 8 to Sept. 24 with Phase 2 set to being in winter 2021.

“If we knock on your door, I strongly encourage you and your loved ones to participate in this important survey,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The data you provide by participating will help inform strategies to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.”

Only homes the teams approach are eligible to participate, and participation is voluntary. The teams will be identifiable by their "Better. Together." shirts.

The health department launched its Better. Together. campaign in July, encouraging Houstonians to work together to stop the spread of the virus, particularly in hard-hit, vulnerable communities. During the first month of the campaign, the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate dropped from 20 percent to 7.8 percent as of Wednesday.

Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research will provide communication and outreach support for the survey. For more information on the survey, click here.

Mayor Turner on Wednesday also announced a successful Community Health Education Fellows Program that resulted in 35 young adults earning their community health education worker and contact tracing certificates. The fellows successfully completed 10 weeks of healthcare training to fight COVID-19 in Houston's most vulnerable communities based on CDC data.

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