Free COVID-19 testing is ongoing through Friday at the Patterson Volunteer Fire Station on Main Street. In addition to testing, participants may enroll in a national study to help researchers learn more about the virus. The study is being done locally through a partnership of Teche Action Clinic, the Louisiana Healthcare Connections and the Louisiana Department of Public Health.
—The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute
COVID-19 study includes St. Mary
Area residents can learn their COVID-19 status and help researchers learn more about the virus by participating in a monthlong study of St. Mary Parish residents.
Teche Action Clinic, the Louisiana Healthcare Connections and the Louisiana Department of Public Health, is enrolling 1,000 St. Mary Parish residents, ages 18 and older, in a national research study to better understand the virus’ impact on racial minorities and underserved communities.
“It’s really important that they do get the screening done, so that we can try to get as much information about this virus as we can because of the impact that it has had on our community,” said Charlene Williams, Teche Action Clinic laboratory manager and site administrator of the study.
The free screenings are being held this week at the Patterson Volunteer Fire Station on Main Street next to City Hall. Wednesday and Thursday, patients are being seen from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., while on Friday, patients will be seen from 8 a.m. to noon.
The testing is part of a bigger research study that Centene Corp., the parent company of Louisiana Healthcare Connections, is doing along with the National Minority Quality Forum. This forum works to make excellent healthcare available to high-risk racial and ethnic populations.
The study’s stop in Patterson is the second of three stops for the monthlong study.
The first was held at the Franklin Recreation Center, while the third public screening will be held Dec. 7-18 at Ochsner St. Mary in Morgan City.
The study also is being completed at Teche Action Clinic’s offices at 1115 Weber St. in Franklin and at 1124 7th St. in Morgan City.
During the study, patients can receive a nasal swab and a blood test.
The test results for the swab will come in 3-5 days, while the antibody blood test will enable residents to learn if they previously were exposed to the virus and if they have enough antibodies to it, Williams said.
The study also will produce such benefits as baseline lab results like levels of Vitamin D, glucose, etc.
Study participants who test positive will receive monitoring kits and will be called each day by a study nurse for the first 14 days to monitor their progress.
Participants also will be contacted weekly for a follow-up call for a month, while check-ins will occur periodically during the five-year study.
So far, about 400 have been enrolled in the study, while in Patterson after the first day, nearly 30 had enrolled.
While it is encouraged, Williams said that patients can just be tested and not participate in the survey.
Through research, it has been determined that there is a disproportionate effect on racial and ethnic minorities from COVID-19.
Race and ethnicity have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as two risk factors for underlying conditions affecting health, such as socioeconomic status, healthcare access and increased exposure to COVID-19 because of their job.
Black, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 as white Americans.
“Longitudinal studies of the health of survivors are going to give us vital information about this disease and the disparities that it exposes,” Dr. Chip Riggins, Medical Director for Region 3 of the Louisiana Office of Public Health, said in a news release. “I know the citizens of St. Mary Parish are eager to step up and share their experience over the next five years as their contribution to what we will know about COVID, and we’re proud to serve alongside them.”
The data will determine COVID-19’s impact on minorities and underserved populations not just in Louisiana but nationwide.
It also will help close these gaps.
While it’s not part of the study, the Office of Public Health is offering screening for children, too, at the Patterson site.