The Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), Center for Health Equity Research at UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC-CHER), and Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) today announced plans to deliver their You & Me COVID-Free testing project in Merced County, Calif., in partnership with United Way.
The Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), Center for Health Equity Research at UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC-CHER), and Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) today announced plans to deliver their You & Me COVID-Free testing project in Merced County, Calif., in partnership with United Way. As many as 200,000 residents will now have access to free, rapid antigen tests that they can self-administer throughout the holiday season to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Test distribution started on Thursday, Nov. 18 and will carry forward into the holiday season while supplies last. So far, 31,800 tests have been claimed by Merced County residents.
You & Me COVID-Free is a federally funded program designed to provide free COVID-19 tests and evaluate whether they are an effective way to reduce community transmission when used prior to gathering with others. The project will also study effective models for community-engaged research so that it can scale to new communities across the nation.
“As people gather with family and friends over the holidays, testing is a critically important tool to help identify COVID-19 infection early and take steps to prevent it from spreading to others,” said Michael “Micky” Cohen-Wolkowiez, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric infectious disease expert, head of pediatric research at the DCRI, and co-investigator of the project.
“You & Me COVID-Free aims to provide not only the COVID-19 tests that community members need to stay safe but also the knowledge that will help our nation expand public health programs to new communities that are bearing the burden of disease,” Cohen-Wolkowiez said.
Merced County was selected for the initial project launch based on high local infection rates, public availability of accurate COVID-19 tracking data, local infrastructure to support the project, and existing community relationships through the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program.
You & Me COVID-Free is an extension of the NIH RADx-UP program to build innovative and sustainable solutions for expanding test access and uptake in underserved and historically marginalized communities throughout the United States. Together, DCRI, UNC-CHER, and CCPH serve as the coordinating and data collection center for the RADx-UP consortium, which is comprised of 120+ community-engaged research projects across the United States, its territories, and Tribal Nations.
“The health disparities our nation has experienced for hundreds of years are now amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately impacting communities of color,” said Giselle Corbie, M.D., MSc, general internist, health equity researcher, founding director of UNC-CHER, and co-investigator of the project.
“RADx-UP projects like You & Me COVID-Free help to support communities most impacted by health inequalities and augment our national response to the pandemic with innovative, community-based research to help improve outcomes for our most vulnerable populations,” Corbie said.
You & Me COVID-Free is overseen by a diverse leadership team that includes Cohen-Wolkowiez and Corbie along with Warren Kibbe, Ph.D., chief of translational biomedical informatics for Duke’s Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, and Al Richmond, executive director of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. You & Me COVID-Free builds on the success of the Say Yes! COVID Test research initiative, which is led by the same investigators. You & Me COVID-Free is being delivered in partnership with United Way of Merced County, which is leading test kit distribution locally.
“We are honored to be selected to participate in a project that was created for and with our community’s health in mind,” said Robert Hypes from United Way of Merced County. “The team behind You & Me COVID-Free understands and values our local community relationships and is committed to providing us with the protective measures that we need to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Through collaborative approaches like this one, we can reach more residents with the messages and tools to stay COVID-free this holiday season and beyond.”
For more information, please visit https://youandmecovidfree.org/.