1,000 Boston residents to be randomly tested for COVID-19 antibodies in hard-hit neighborhoods

BOSTON (WHDH) - The City of Boston is working with Massachusetts General Hospital to randomly test 1,000 people for COVID-19 antibodies and to see how many people may have the virus without showing symptoms.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Sunday that asymptomatic people living in East Boston, Roslindale and parts of Dorchester will be contacted to receive voluntary testing this week.

“Our hope is taking this data and this information to inform a path to recovery, and also adapt our current efforts in the immediate to contain the virus,” Walsh said.

This will include traditional swab tests, as well as antibody tests which analyze blood from a finger prick to see if the body has developed an immune response.

Dr. David Louis, Pathologist-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, said these tests “will also give us information on things like whether someone is ready to go back to work potentially, and it will also give us information on understanding what it means to be immune.”

There has been speculation that people who contract and recover from the coronavirus may be able to get back to normal life but Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, urged caution.

“I think what WHO is saying is we don’t know how long that effective antibody lasts,” she said, “and I think that is a question we have to explore over the next few months and over the next few years.”

Walsh says the information they gather may help make the tough decision to reopen Boston.

“Opening is not simply flipping on a switch,” he said. “It’s really going to have to be a targeted opening and we’re going to have to work with vulnerable populations.”

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