DCRI to Co-Lead Program for Self-Administered COVID-19 Testing

The program will evaluate testing results and other data to determine whether the intervention of providing self-administered COVID-19 tests helps to slow the rate of community transmission.

In its latest effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the DCRI will help lead a new community health initiative aimed at reducing community transmission.

Say Yes Covid Test logo

The program, called “Say Yes! COVID Test,” and announced today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, will work closely with state and local public health departments to provide residents with self-administered, rapid antigen COVID-19 tests.

The program will take place in two communities—Pitt County, North Carolina, and Chattanooga/Hamilton County, Tennessee—giving as many as 160,000 residents across the two communities access to tests. The participating communities were selected based on infection rates and other data. Participants in the program can order their test kits, which will be offered by local health departments, online for home delivery or pick them up at a local distribution site. Participants will self-administer the tests three times a week for at least one month. A free online tool, also available as a phone app, will provide testing instructions, information to help understand test results, and text message reminders about testing.

Supported through NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Health Equity Research (UNC-CHER), Duke University and the DCRI will work with the CDC and NIH to implement the “Say Yes! COVID Test” initiative and evaluate viral transmission in the selected communities. The effort is led by co-principal investigators Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD, MSc, director of UNC-CHER, and DCRI’s Micky Cohen-Wolkowiez, MD, PhD. Community-Campus Partnerships for Health will be leading efforts to partner with faith-based organizations, local employers, and others in the selected communities to bring test kits to residents. “Say Yes! COVID Test” will also include additional researchers from across Duke University. The DCRI is part of the Duke University School of Medicine.

“By eliminating barriers to testing and providing easily accessible tests that people can administer themselves, we will give individuals agency over their health while also understanding the impact on community transmission,” Corbie-Smith said.

Micky Cohen-Wolkowiez

“We look forward to continued partnerships with community and faith-based organizations and local health departments to expand testing capabilities for communities in the most need,” Cohen-Wolkowiez said.

The researchers will analyze COVID-19 case data, hospitalization data, and monitoring of viral particles in wastewater to understand more about viral transmission within the communities. These findings will also be compared to data from other communities of similar size to determine whether self-administered testing impacts community transmission. Participants will also have the option to enroll in a research study evaluating their reported behaviors in response to COVID-19 test results. Data collection will occur via a mobile device application or phone calls conducted through the DCRI Call Center.

The research study is led by DCRI’s Christoph Hornik, MD, PhD, MPH, and Gaurav Dave, MD, DrPH, MPH, from the UNC School of Medicine.

Christoph Hornik

“We look forward to the opportunity to partner with communities to learn more about the best ways to keep them safe,” Hornik said.

Gaurav Dave

“We are hopeful that self-administered testing will help reduce community transmission of COVID-19 by making people more aware of their viral status, and lead to changes in behavior that protect them and those around them,” Dave said.