BLAINE COUNTY — The Blaine County COVID STATS (Study To Test and Track SARS-CoV-2) project has been underway for just about a month. The project allows Blaine County residents to help doctors and researchers learn more about how the immune system fights off COVID-19.
Participants are monitored for a six-month period where they will have to submit blood work, weekly nasal swab tests, and questionnaires.
The project is still in its initial phase, and currently, there are just over 20 participants in the study. The response was far greater but many had to be turned away due to the criteria that organizers had established.
“We’ve had to, unfortunately, stall or decline your offers for enrollment," said Principal Investigator, Terrance O'Connor. "Our initial goals were to access people prior to obtaining a vaccine.”
The reason why researchers wanted participants who weren't vaccinated was so that they could see what that body looked like before someone received their vaccination or caught COVID. Then they could see how the immune system reacts to either.
“The key question really is to help us understand the inner workings and mechanisms of your body’s response after you get the vaccine, and also be part of a body evident to prove that you can’t carry or transmit this disease hopefully ever again after you get vaccinated," said O'Connor.
Doctors involved in the study are also looking to learn more about COVID variants, especially now since there are confirmed cases in that area.
Co-Investigator Dr. Tom Archie said, “We’re going to be sending all of our positive samples for variant sequencing so it allows us to continue that effort to contribute to the local scientific knowledge about the presence of variants here.”
Since more people are needed, officials are encouraging residents to sign up and participate, especially since there is financial compensation.
“Participants get paid for being a part of the study depending on how much work they’re doing. If they’re doing swabbing every week and questionnaires every week and they’re in that group then they’re going to get paid more," said Archie.