Brigham and Women’s Hospital is teaming up with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to launch a large-scale research study that will facilitate at-home COVID-19 testing for 10,000 people in the region.
Called TestBoston, the initiative will test people for the coronavirus and for antibodies against the disease, the organizations said in a statement Tuesday. It will provide information on the prevalence of the virus in the area and could offer an early warning sign of a surge of new cases in the fall and winter.
The study will involve a representative group of 10,000 Brigham patients consistent with the demographics in Greater Boston.
Over the course of six months, study participants will get monthly at-home kits for viral and antibody testing. They’ll also complete routine surveys and can seek additional testing if they develop symptoms, officials said.
Ongoing study results could reveal warning signs about how COVID-19 cases are changing in the Boston area. It will also help clinicians learn more about whether contracting the virus protects someone from future reinfection, according to the statement.
TestBoston will be led by Dr. Ann Woolley and Dr. Lisa Cosimi, infectious disease physicians at Brigham and Women’s, and Dr. Deborah Hung, a codirector of the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program of the Broad Institute and an infectious disease and critical care physician at the Brigham.
“With ongoing limits on testing availability, we still face serious challenges to our understanding of how many people in Massachusetts have been infected and to our ability to detect new outbreaks, which is made all the more challenging because we know that asymptomatic people can transmit this virus to others,” Woolley said in the statement.
In that vein, Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera on Tuesday unveiled a new mobile health unit for coronavirus testing and warned residents to remain vigilant about wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.
“We’re here because we’re still having problems with COVID in our community,” Rivera said at a press conference. “Because people are still having parties in their homes and celebrations without wearing masks and social distancing. We have to stop that. People are still traveling outside of the city, outside of the country, and not quarantining when they come home and not getting tested when they come home, or ignoring the test results and still going to work."
As of Monday, 143 people had died from COVID-19 in Lawrence. Nearly 5,000 residents have tested positive for coronavirus, Rivera said.
The new $255,000 mobile health unit will be run by Lawrence General Hospital and offer free COVID-19 testing throughout the city.
“Because we know the more people that we get tested, the more people get help, the better it is for the community at large,” Rivera said. “So, if you see the mobile health unit rolling through your neighborhood, follow it, go get tested. It is easy and it’s free.”
This is the third testing vehicle used to screen for COVID-19 in Lawrence, city officials said.
Deborah Wilson, president and chief executive of Lawrence General Hospital, said the testing unit is “a very important part of stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
“It was only a short six months ago where 70 percent of the beds at Lawrence General Hospital were being used to take care of very, very sick patients afflicted with the COVID-19 virus," she said. "We’ve seen the swift and serious impact of this virus, and we need to do everything we can to stop it.”