OHSU study

Kevin Ystad collects Key to Oregon research study cards and packages them for mailing at Stevens Integrated Solutions in Portland.

People in Clatsop County have been invited to participate in Key to Oregon, a statewide research study designed to monitor the spread of the coronavirus.

Announced by Gov. Kate Brown in May, the study is being led by Oregon Health & Science University in collaboration with the state and the OHSU-Portland State University School of Public Health.

The study will enroll 100,000 people to represent the state’s ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic population. In Clatsop County, 1,900 randomly selected households have been invited to participate and nearly 100 have signed up so far to report their temperature and other virus symptoms for up to a year.

“The goal with what we’re trying to do here is to really develop and implement a project that allows us to get a better understanding of what that real prevalence is of COVID-19 across the state of Oregon,” said Jackie Shannon, the study’s lead researcher. “And then being able to use that data to inform decision-making, whether that’s at a local level, a regional level or a statewide level with regards to things like our businesses, our schools and our own individual decision-making.”

Shannon said researchers want to identify where and how the virus is spreading and examine regional differences. Researchers hope to catch new cases early, provide early warnings of emerging virus “hot spots” and identify asymptomatic cases.

People over 18 can respond to the invitation and enroll to track their temperature and record virus symptoms on a web-based portal. The process takes less than 10 minutes a day.

People who show symptoms of the virus receive a home test kit through LabCorp. A subsect of asymptomatic people will also be selected for testing to help measure how the virus could be spreading undetected.

Participants will also receive optional surveys asking about how the virus impacts other parts of their life, including physical activity, access to medical care, mental health and child care.

The information will be shared with the Oregon Health Authority and state and regional officials. Data will be publicly available through an online dashboard.

Shannon said researchers have made modifications to better reach historically underserved groups.

“We essentially developed a schema that would identify a certain percent of households within each zip code. And then we oversampled in zip codes that were primarily rural and in zip codes where there was a higher percent of individuals that self reported at household level as being Black, Native American or Latinx,” she said.

Tyler TerMeer, the CEO of the Cascade AIDS Project, is partnering with researchers to make sure the study is effective at addressing the needs of people of color who are being disproportionately affected by the virus.

“And we want to figure out how together do we effectively reach communities that have a very valid and long history of medical mistrust or trust of large institutions,” TerMeer said.

“And I think I’m just really proud to be a part of a team that is taking the hard look at how we not only impact all Oregonians through this research, but also work to create a model for what research should look like.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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