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Gov. Brown, OHSU partner on research study to inform approach for reopening Oregon

Real-time study will conduct targeted statewide COVID-19 testing, precision mapping to help safely ease physical distancing, control future outbreaks
a graphic of a keyhole with mount hood visible through it, graphic says you are the key
Oregon Health & Science University, in collaboration with the State of Oregon and the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, will conduct a statewide study to track, test and precisely map the coronavirus in real time. (OHSU)

To better understand the prevalence and transmission patterns of COVID-19 across the state -- with attention to vulnerable communities, including underserved populations, Native Americans and people of color -- Oregon Health & Science University, in collaboration with the State of Oregon and the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, will conduct a statewide study to track, test and precisely map the virus in real time.

The Key to Oregon research study, announced today by Gov. Kate Brown, will enroll 100,000 randomly selected Oregonians to voluntarily provide essential data that can be used to inform decision making at the county, regional and state level. The study’s goal is to help get people back to school and work faster, while effectively managing the potential for future COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS
Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS

“Thanks to the valiant efforts of all Oregonians, our state has effectively flattened the coronavirus curve,” says OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H. F.A.C.S. “While this result is encouraging, the consequences of loosening restrictions too soon could be immense. Just as Oregon was a national leader in slowing the initial spread of the virus, we have an opportunity to show the nation a sensible, systematic approach to restoring our economy.”

According to David Bangsberg, M.D., M.P.H, founding dean of the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, “This study plays an important role in allowing us to determine where the virus is located across our state. Information from our community members is the key to uncovering this data,” he says.

While Oregon’s success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 was critical, it means that very few community members have acquired immunity to the virus. By removing public health sanctions too quickly, and without proper monitoring, the state is at heightened risk of a “second wave” of infections.

“By gathering reliable data, we will replace fears of COVID-19 with facts about how and where we can contain this disease,” says Gov. Kate Brown. “By sampling representative groups of our population, with accurate data for those who are disproportionately at risk, we can balance our economic needs while protecting Oregonians’ health and safety. Oregonians are the key to reopening our state and keeping it open.”

What the study entails

An OHSU research team will track the temperatures and other COVID-19 symptoms of all 100,000 study participants. The information gleaned from this study will be applied broadly across the state in real time.

Study participants will:

  • Be selected at random to represent the state’s ethnic, socioeconomic and geographically diverse population.
  • Receive an invitation to enroll, via U.S. mail, starting the week of May 11.
  • Monitor their temperature and other COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis over a 12-month period using state-of-the-art technology, such as Kinsa smart thermometers, to collect real-time data.  
  • Receive a home test kit, upon exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, to help detect the virus at its earliest stage, better protecting the individual, their family and community.
  • Be referred to the Oregon Health Authority for follow up and appropriate action as needed.
  • A subset of up to 10,000 randomly selected study participants also will be provided home testing kits to provide better data about prevalence of asymptomatic infection, and prevent wider spread in the community and the state.

All test results will be reported to the Oregon Health Authority to assist with contact tracing and home isolation of those with positive tests. Contact tracing identifies individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person to heighten awareness of COVID-19 symptoms and initiate measures to limit disease spread in their household and the community. 

All study participation is voluntary and upholds strict patient privacy guidelines. Participation in the Key to Oregon research study is not a substitution for COVID-19 health care services. Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact a health care provider.

Expected Results

In addition to providing a more accurate understanding of Oregon’s COVID-19 infection rate, this study will:

  • Gather data about the virus in Oregon to determine the relationship between easing physical distancing measures and resurgence of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Identify new COVID-19 cases at their earliest stages, enabling swift contact tracing and isolation to help control the spread of the disease.
  • Provide early warnings of emerging virus “hotspots,” to allow control with contact tracing and isolation for control of virus spread, which hopes to prevent the need to reinstitute community-wide physical distancing measures.  
  • Identify asymptomatic individuals and outbreaks, a significant but otherwise invisible factor in the spread of COVID-19.
  • Focus special attention on high-risk populations and underserved communities to ensure that no groups will be left out or left vulnerable as our society emerges from this pandemic.

Bringing together a team across OHSU, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health

The study was developed by a team of OHSU researchers, who have pivoted efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Jacobs and Bangsberg, the team includes the leadership of OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Director Brian Druker, M.D., as well as study principal investigators Jackie Shannon, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Paul Spellman, Ph.D. Consultation will be provided by OHSU School of Medicine chair of pathology Donna Hansel, M.D., Ph.D., OHSU infectious disease experts, and researchers across OHSU including the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute.

An initial investment of $6,000,000 has been committed by the State of Oregon to help fund this study. OHSU and the Governor are actively seeking additional funding through public and private partnership.

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