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No positives from Corvallis coronavirus testing project's second weekend, last of testing postponed
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No positives from Corvallis coronavirus testing project's second weekend, last of testing postponed

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WVT labs will process 96-well plates that contain RNA and reagents while testing for COVID-19 at their Corvallis Lab.

Two weekends ago, the likelihood of a random Corvallis resident having the coronavirus was about one in 1,000.

Data announced Thursday by the Oregon State University-led door-to-door testing project has again shown the estimated prevalence of city residents infected with SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that is known to cause COVID-19 — to be relatively low.

But the TRACE-COVID-19 project began weeks before the state entered its first stage of reopening on Friday.

“It’s hard to say that the reopening is not going to lead to increased prevalence,” said researcher Ben Dalziel.

So, the final weekend of the door-to-door coronavirus testing project in Corvallis has been postponed. Dalziel and colleague Jeff Bethel explained it could be better to hold off on testing more residents until the state’s reopening is well underway.

“Waiting a little bit allows us to collect data at a time when it will be most useful and actionable,” Bethel said.

In the meantime, OSU released its conclusions based on the second weekend of testing. Between May 2 and 3, TRACE workers visited 359 homes within 30 Corvallis census blocks and tested 672 more people for the coronavirus.

No one tested positive on those days, the researchers confirmed.

After the first weekend of testing, TRACE leaders would not confirm whether any residents had positive test results. They referred to state health guidelines prohibiting communities from disclosing how many residents are infected if the total is less than 10.

If they did get 10 or more positive tests back at one time, Bethel said, then reporting that number would be “consistent with the guidelines.” Since the total from weekend two was zero, they were able to publicly announce it.

Bill Wren and his wife were two people most recently sampled in the TRACE project’s third weekend, May 9 and 10. They’ve already gotten their results back.

“We failed,” Wren chuckled, “in a good way.”

The couple was excited when TRACE workers came to their house on Mother’s Day.

“They were actually really really good at keeping a distance,” Wren. “The whole thing was beautifully orchestrated, obviously they’ve done this a few times and practiced well.”

The process took around 15 minutes, Wren said, and the test wasn’t invasive.

“It’s not your normal test,” he said. “The swab doesn’t go clear up into your brain.”

Wren said an older family member will be moving in with them soon, so it was comforting to know as soon as Wednesday that they weren’t infected at the time.

“The testing criteria is so strict,” he said. “We don't know how many people have it, and that’s what I like about this test.”

As originally proposed, the TRACE project will only reach around 2,000 of Corvallis’ more than 58,000 residents. Although he said he’s disappointed in what he deemed a small sample size, Wren said he sees the test as a good indicator of what’s going on in the community.

But, he’d still like to know how many people have tested positive for the coronavirus from this project. Until then, Wren said, residents may have reasonable suspicions about the project’s findings.

“If you don’t release all the data,” he said, “that is a big no-no in the world of statistics. This is how peer-reviewed studies work. People are grading your homework and parsing your data to make sure you came to the right conclusion.”

OSU will release the project’s findings from its third weekend late next week. It is currently unclear when testing will resume.

For more information on the TRACE project, visit trace.oregonstate.edu or call 541-713-0450.

Reporter Nia Tariq can be reached at nia.tariq@lee.net.

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