Rajko Anic, left, and Aaron Hueser with El Paso County Public Health test patients for COVID-19 at a drive-up testing site Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, during the weekly food distribution center outside the Southeast Armed Services YMCA in Colorado Springs. The site was set up to reach more Hispanics, including undocumented members in the community. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus has wrapped up its first phase of COVID-19 antibody testing on Arapahoe County first responders, and will commence testing of the county’s general population next week.

The COVID-19 Arapahoe SErosurveillance Study, or CASES, determined that 4% of the police, firefighters and emergency medical participants tested positive for antibodies, which indicates a past coronavirus infection. The goal of the first phase was to establish a baseline prevalence of the disease and whether infections increased after the loosening of public health restrictions. Researchers also sought to compare different methods of obtaining blood samples for testing.

In the second phase beginning Sept. 14, approximately 1,200 households have received postcards with instructions for participating. Although anyone over age 5 living in the randomly-selected homes may get tested, only those selected households are eligible.

CU will send a “Sun Bus” to various neighborhoods where people can receive the tests. They will undergo a finger prick blood draw and will receive the results for free.

“If you test positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 it can mean several things,” CU explained. “You most likely were exposed to the virus, had the COVID-19 infection and now have antibodies to the virus in your blood.”

The university added it is possible, but unlikely, that people who test positive have a current infection, and that modifications to work or home arrangements based on a positive antibody test are not recommended.

Later in the fall, researchers may ask participants in phase two to undergo a second pin prick test — one in which they collect the sample themselves.

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