Rhode Island to Launch Expanded Serology Testing Effort

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) will be coordinating a second, expanded round of serology testing in the coming weeks to better understand the prevalence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among people in certain high-contact professions in Rhode Island. This effort is in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Rhode Island was one of three sites selected across the United States for participation in this serology testing effort, along with Detroit and New York City.

Starting July 17th, first responders (police, fire, and emergency medical services), Rhode Island National Guard members, RIDOH staff, correctional facility workers, and hospital and nursing home staff will be able to schedule a test online. Testing will be voluntary. Results will be made available to participants approximately four days after they are tested.  

Serology testing looks for proteins in the blood called antibodies, which are produced in response to the presence of a virus. Serology testing tells us whether someone was previously exposed to a virus and helps us understand the prevalence of a virus in a community and the state. RIDOH will be looking for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Serology testing is one part of a strategic, comprehensive approach to measuring the impact of COVID-19 in Rhode Island, and is critical to inform our efforts to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Philip Chan, MD, MS, the Consultant Medical Director of the RIDOH’s Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease, and Emergency Medical Services. “Rhode Island is already a national leader in PCR-based diagnostic testing for COVID-19. Supplementing what we learn from diagnostic testing with antibody testing is important to understand how COVID-19 is spreading in the state and to support people and communities that are most vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Most testing sites will be located at or near hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities, first responder facilities, and public safety agencies. People will get information about their testing site when they schedule a test.

In May, in an initial round of serology testing, 5,000 randomly selected Rhode Island households received invitations to be tested. A seroprevalence of 2.2% was found, meaning that 2.2% of people who were tested had been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Higher seroprevalences were seen among Hispanic Rhode Islanders and African American Rhode Islanders.

To participate in this serology testing effort, someone must:

  • Be currently working as a first responder (police, fire, or emergency medical services), Rhode Island National Guard member, RIDOH employee, correctional facility worker, or a hospital and nursing home staff member in Rhode Island. (Employee ID will be required to participate).
  • Not have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test within the last two weeks, and
  • Have a valid mobile phone number or email address to receive test results.

To schedule a test, visit FirstSeroSurveyRI.com. For more information about this serology testing effort, people can see the Frequently Asked Questions document that RIDOH has developed, or they can call Quest Diagnostics at 833-670-0253. Quest Diagnostics is the laboratory that will be analyzing the samples collected.

Serology testing does not indicate whether someone is immune to COVID-19. We are still learning whether the presence of antibodies protects someone from future infection, and if so, for how long. Therefore, it is important that people who have antibodies continue to take measures to prevent the spread of illness.

  • When people are in public, wear a cloth face covering.
  • Keep your groups consistent and small.
  • Practice social distancing (whenever possible, maintain a six-foot distance from other people in public)
  • Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • If you are sick, stay home and self-isolate (unless going out for testing or healthcare).

General information about COVID-19 is available at health.ri.gov/covid

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