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Free COVID-19 Antibody Testing Project In Ventura County Gathering Data To Help Cope With Crisis

There’s an ambitious research project in Ventura County giving people the chance to find out if they've  had COVID-19.

The project is offering free antibody testing.  The test shows people who’ve never had symptoms the chance to see if they’ve had the virus.  And, the data collected could give Ventura County leaders key data on the scope of the crisis, so they can do a better job of dealing with it.

Alecia Valdez is in the parking lot of the Thousand Oaks Elks Lodge.  An improvised field lab has been set up here.  People are coming here for free COVID-19 antibody testing.

The test isn’t the commonly used ones which tell you if you currently have the virus.  It tells you if you’ve ever had it.  This testing is mot only for the benefit of those being tested, it’s part of what’s being called a one of a kind study in the nation to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in Ventura County.

Matthew Fienup is Executive Director of California Lutheran University’s Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.  CERF is one of the many partners in the ambitious project.

The project started with the Oxnard Fire Department developing a testing program for first responders in Ventura County.  They developed a scan code to track test results.  Other partners saw this as an opportunity to not only do testing, but to gather demographic information to assess the scope of the pandemic in the county.

Since May, researchers from Cal Lutheran, UCLA, UC Irvine, and an organization called 11Health have been working with the Ventura County Healthcare Agency, the Oxnard Fire Department, the Ventura Fire Department, and St. John’s Hospital.  More than 13,000 people have been tested.  There’s a big push this month, with free tests available at a number of spots in Ventura County.   

Fienup says the demographic information can be a goldmine for policy makers trying to shape a response to the crisis.

People getting tested say it’s not only good to know if they’ve had the virus, but nice to be able to help with the research.  

After doing her paperwork, Alicia Valdez sits down for her test.  It involves taking a small blood sample from her arm.  She doesn't like needles, but says it wasn't a big deal.  She's happy that she will find out if she's ever had the virus.

The antibody testing is taking place at a number of sites in Ventura County from now through November 20th.  You can find a link to the sites here:

Again, it’s free, and no appointment is necessary.  Test results are available in 24 to 48 hours online, or by smartphone.  

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.