Sunday, April 26, 2020 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh
together with Dr. Peter Slavin, President of Massachusetts General Hospital
(MGH) and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today announced that
approximately 1,000 residents in the City of Boston will be invited to
participate in a study to evaluate community exposure to COVID-19 through
antibody testing. The sampling will focus on residents living in East Boston,
Roslindale and within the boundaries of zip codes 02121 and 02125 in
Dorchester. Outreach to residents in those areas began today.
"It is our hope that by conducting this
testing, we as a collective City will get a better understanding of the true
prevalence of COVID-19 in our community," said Mayor Walsh. "The more
we can expand our testing, the more we can learn how to use our medical
resources more efficiently, and how we need to focus our current efforts to contain
the virus. I want to thank MGH for being an excellent partner on this effort
that we hope will be a step forward towards the path to recovery."
As part of the study, MGH will collect data of
1,000 asymptomatic Boston residents this week by administering testing for both
the COVID-19 virus and the COVID-19 antibodies. Testing for COVID-19 virus is
done by means of a swab of the nose and determines if you have the infection.
Antibody testing is done by means of blood drawn through a finger prick and
detects whether your blood has antibodies that are present when the body is
responding to an infection, like COVID-19. Any resident who tests positive for
the COVID-19 virus or the COVID-19 antibodies will be provided with clear
guidance and information on how to care for themselves and those around them.
This randomized testing is critical, as the CDC
estimates that nationally 25 percent of people infected with COVID-19 are
asymptomatic, and may not know they are a carrier of the virus, or that they
could be infecting others.
"We are at war with COVID-19, and
overcoming this viral enemy demands knowledge, strategy and intelligence
gathering," said Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General
Hospital. "A growing body of evidence suggests that many people who have
been infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, but we don't yet know how
prevalent the disease is in our city, in our communities and in our society.
Data from this testing in Boston will provide vital clues into the spread of
the virus and will help us develop strategies to slow down or stop this
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.
This announcement builds on Mayor Walsh's
commitment to increase access to testing for Boston residents, which will allow
for better understanding of the spread and inform a path to recovery. In the
last week alone, Boston has had a 30 percent increase in the amount of testing
happening citywide, making a concerted effort in the hardest-hit areas. For
example, in the last week, Hyde Park had a 57 percent increase in testing,
Mattapan had a 35 percent increase in testing, and the hardest-hit parts of
Dorchester had a 37 percent increase in testing.
On Friday, Mayor Walsh announced the City of
Boston will move forward with universal
testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus) for all unhoused individuals in Boston.
The City of Boston has secured an additional 1,000 tests, which will allow
public health officials to test all clients in Boston's shelter system over the
next two weeks.
Through the Boston
Resiliency Fund, the City has dedicated over $760,000 to expand COVID-19
testing at nine community health centers in East Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan,
and Roxbury. There are now currently 15 testing sites up and running across the
City of Boston, which includes 10 operated by community health centers, and 5
operated by hospitals. A full map of testing sites is available here. Residents are encouraged to call ahead to be pre-screened, and
pre-scheduled appointments are required. Residents will not be charged for
testing and residents will not be asked about immigration status.
In addition, the City of Boston has made
available weekly data on testing at the neighborhood level, with new reports
including the number of people tested, and positive testing rates for each
neighborhood. The latest data was shared on Friday, April 24 and can be found