Participating households in Greenville, Pitt County, NC will receive free month-long supplies of rapid tests aimed at reducing community transmission of COVID-19. UNC School of Medicine’s Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD, and Duke colleagues will conduct research to test effectiveness of the program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in close collaboration with state and local public health departments, has launched an innovative community health initiative called “Say Yes! COVID Test” starting in Pitt County, North Carolina, and coming soon to Chattanooga, Tennessee. As many as 160,000 residents across the two communities will have access to free, rapid antigen tests that they can administer themselves to use three times a week for one month. The National Institutes of Health will provide the tests and evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative, which aims to determine if frequent self-administered COVID-19 testing helps residents reduce community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
“This testing initiative is the first of this scale to attempt to make free, rapid, self-administered tests available community-wide in order to determine their effectiveness in our nation’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “We hope to gain foundational data that can guide how communities can use self-administered tests to mitigate viral transmission during this and future pandemics.”
Participants in the “Say Yes! COVID Test” initiative will also have the option to volunteer in an NIH-supported research study that will collect additional data through surveys. The survey questions are designed to determine whether frequent self-administered testing has made a difference in behavior, knowledge on preventing spread of the virus and thoughts about COVID-19 vaccination.
Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Social Medicine and Director of the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (UNC CHER), is the UNC lead, and will work with Micky Cohen-Wolkowiez, MD, PhD of the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). The evaluation research study is also lead by UNC CHER’s Associate Director, Gaurav Dave, MD, DrPH, MPH, who is also Director of Evaluation of the NIH-funded North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute at UNC. DCRI’s Cristoph Hornik, MD, PHD, MPH is also co-leading the evaluation of the Pitt County study.
Selection of the two communities was based on local infection rates, public availability of accurate COVID-19 tracking data, existing community relationships through the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) and local infrastructure to support the project.
“It is an honor that Greenville–Pitt County has been selected as one of only two Say Yes! COVID Test communities in the United States,” said John Silvernail, MD, Pitt County Health Director. “Free, community-wide, self-administered testing offers Greenville–Pitt County residents a unique advantage to reduce the spread of COVID-19 right here where we live, work, learn, and play. We expect that participation will be high—our community will not want to miss the chance to Say Yes! COVID Test.”
Rapid, self-administered testing has potential to disrupt the “silent spread” of COVID-19 that occurs when people are infected, but do not yet have symptoms. Testing three times a week offers the best chance of identifying COVID-19 infection and isolating early, giving Greenville–Pitt County residents one more way to stay safe, along with hand washing, staying six feet away from others, vaccination, and wearing a mask.
The COVID-19 test kits are provided free of charge, and the entire testing process can be managed privately at home. Tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, and results can be read in just 10 minutes. The maker of the tests, Quidel, is the same company that made the first rapid flu tests used by doctors’ offices in the United States.
Greenville–Pitt County residents can order test kits or view the list of community pick-up locations by visiting the website at www.CovidTestPittCounty.org.
Each test kit supports frequent home testing for two household members. Individuals who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine or who have the highest risk for exposure to COVID-19, such as people working or going to school outside the home, are ideal candidates for participation. The testing challenge lasts for at least a month, or until all tests are used.
For additional questions regarding the Say Yes! COVID Test At-Home Testing Challenge, contact Amy Hattem, Pitt County Health Department Deputy Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.