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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Health is launching three new antibody studies that include widespread blood tests.

The first study is being led by the University of Minnesota. They will begin doing voluntary antibody tests on grocery store and health care workers.

The second study will use leftover plasma from blood bank donors to get a sense of what proportion has been exposed to the virus.

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The third study will be MDH’s version of the CASPER study, which stands for “Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response.” It’s typically a survey used to collect data quickly in neighborhoods after natural disasters. But in this case, MDH will use it to collect data about the virus, according to epidemiologist and medical director Ruth Lynfield.

“We would ask them about symptoms, and ask them some additional questions, but also include that antibody test as well,” Lynfield said.

She says they will divide the state up by seven regions, and try to select random households in as many neighborhoods as they can.

Before they start knocking on people’s doors, they will do some advertising so people will know about it before it begins.

“We can engage the community and involve those people who want to be involved, and it’s not just some random person knocking on your door,” Lynfield said.

All of the antibody tests offered in these studies will be voluntary. The goal is for MDH to learn more about the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota to better prepare for a second wave of the virus.

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“I think this will provide some insight to help us,” she said.

These studies will likely start within the next month, and Lynfield says two more waves of these says studies will happen in the fall and spring of 2021.

Minnesota will be the third state to use the CASPER study for COVID-19 data research, and the second state to use this method to collect blood tests.

Lynfield says the voluntary antibody test would be brought directly to people’s homes. And to make even easier, MDH is hoping to be able to offer this blood test as a simple finger prick.

Click here for more information on the CASPER study.

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Marielle Mohs