COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – The University of South Carolina will be working alongside DHEC in a year-long project to provide information about disease infection and immunity over time.
The project, known as the ‘SC STRONG project,’ will evaluate COVID-19 infection and immunity to fortify the state’s response to the virus and help identify health inequities.
The project will be led by Dr. Virginie Daguise, DHEC’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Director, and Dr. Melissa Nolan, assistant professor and epidemiologist with the UofSC Arnold School of Public Health.
A total of 32,500 South Carolinians have been randomly selected to take part in the first wave of testing and will receive a blue envelope in the mail.
Participation entails just two steps: complete a private online survey and take part in one free COVID-19 test – both a nasal swab and blood sample – that will identify both current and past infection.
“This widescale public health project will track current infection rates and provide scientific evidence of immunity among various populations,” Dr. Daguise said. “Each participant’s information will remain confidential. This is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for South Carolinians to directly support public health experts’ understanding of this new and deadly disease that continues to impact our state and nation.”
Randomly selected participants include those five years of age and older. Parents or guardians will be responsible for minors’ participation.
The project will rely on local healthcare providers and community partners to collect a nasal swab, or oral swab for children, as well as a blood sample, which is a finger prick for children.
The online survey and one-time specimen collection are the extent of each individual’s participation in the project. Results for both tests will be provided to the individual within a few days.
“We’re trying to better understand the patterns of transmission within specific populations and we’re looking for existing immunity within individuals who have already recovered from infection,” Dr. Nolan said. “We’ll be using this information to make projections about the dynamics of both the spread and the immunity within specific populations – by geographical area, for example – so we can help inform public health officials’ and policymakers’ decision about the distribution of resources, such as vaccinations, testing, treatment and more.”