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MDH to conduct COVID-19 serology testing locally

Testing to take place Oct. 3-4 at the Nobles County Fairgrounds in Worthington.

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Leticia Rodriguez (from left), Peter Ekadu and Aida Simon are working with the Minnesota Department of Health to bring a serology testing clinic to Worthington Oct. 3-4. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Department of Health is partnering with Voices for Racial Justice to conduct a COVID-19 serology testing clinic Oct. 3-4 in Worthington.

The goal is to test 2,000 individuals, ages 7 through adult, during the two-day research event at the Nobles County Fairgrounds, 1600 Stower Drive. Testing will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4.

The test involves a simple finger prick and collection of two droplets of blood, which will be analyzed by MDH for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.

All Nobles County residents, as well as those who live outside the county but work, shop, play or worship in the county, are invited to participate in the free testing event. Serology testing, if done at a hospital or clinic, can cost anywhere from $68 to $100.

“We hope … to help MDH to learn more about how the COVID-19 disease spread within the community, and better target testing and prevention programs to protect all of us, our friends, families and the entire community,” said Peter Ekadu, a community volunteer and project coordinator.

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To ensure its success, Ekadu said people are asked to pre-register for testing. Pre-registration information will be released later this week. The goal is to have 80% (1,600 people) signed up prior to Oct. 3. Participants will receive a short, anonymous survey during the testing, which includes questions on demographics, history of exposure, risk, testing history and behaviors taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Leticia Rodriguez, a local Seeds of Justice member, said it’s vitally important the testing event is successful.

“I think it’s very important that MDH engages more with communities of color,” she said. “It will definitely help shape how COVID is studied and looked at.”

Another Seeds of Justice member, Aida Simon, said the group was very involved from the get-go when COVID reached Worthington, particularly in helping get food and supplies to communities of color.

“We were … delivering supplies, making sure the message was getting across to communities of color during the mass testing," Simon said. "We did door-knocking and whatever had to be done.

It was because of those efforts that MDH reached out to the group when it considered doing a serology research study locally. The testing in Worthington will be their first research study.

“We know the barriers that our communities of color face in Worthington, from language to transportation to many things that get in the way of getting tested or knowing they have the virus,” Simon added. “There’s so much anxiety about whether people have or don’t have COVID. It’s pretty much to have peace of mind — to know if you’ve had it or not.”

Simon said she hopes the results of the testing event will help MDH figure out how to better respond to the crisis.

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Each individual who completes serology testing during the two-day event will receive a $10 gift card (maximum of $50 per household), with enough gift cards to distribute to 2,000 individuals. Ekadu said testing will continue beyond the 2,000 individuals if there are more requests to be tested, though those individuals will not be able to receive a gift card.

“This is a research project,” Voices for Racial Justice Community Health Organizer Monica Hurtado explained. While people are welcome to participate anonymously, they have the option to share their contact information with MDH if they wish to be notified of their results. Primary Bio, contracted by MDH, is coordinating pre-registration.

“MDH can identify and report back on the number of people who were tested, how many positive and negative, and some demographics,” Hurtado shared. “They will not keep the names of the people and anything that can make them identifiable.”

“The testing will not be screening anything but COVID antibodies,” added Ekadu. “After the COVID testing, the samples will be destroyed.”

It takes anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to determine results of each test.

Ekadu said when MDH reached out to Voices for Racial Justice for help in coordinating a local serology testing event, the state agency had three goals in mind:

  • To measure the spread of COVID-19 and how it spread in the community.

  • To study demographics and risk hazards in hopes of learning what demographics are most impacted by the virus. This information may lead to more preventive efforts for risk groups, and could potentially be used for future target testing in the event of another COVID outbreak.

  • To learn the perceptions, concerns and attitudes among people regarding COVID-19.

“MDH reached out to Voices because, across the country, we’re seeing data that people of color are seeing the highest number of cases,” Ekadu said.
It is hoped that a cross-section of people participate in the serology testing — from people who have not had COVID-19 symptoms, to those who believe they had the virus but were never tested, and those who were previously tested for the novel coronavirus.

“If someone got the virus, we don’t know how long the antibodies will stay in the body,” Hurtado said. “That’s why this is open to anybody.”

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Interpreters will be on site during the testing for those individuals who may need a translator.

For more information, visit seedsofjustice.org.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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