Study finds 2.2% of Rhode Islanders have COVID-19 antibodies

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Department of Health sent letters to about 5,000 random households inviting them to get tested for antibodies in the month of May.

“We really tried to be proactive and push the envelope on a lot of this, so that his hasn’t been done anywhere else that I know of,” said Dr. Philip Chan, an infectious disease specialist serving as a consultant to RIDOH.

Based on that sampling, about 2.2 percent of the population overall is estimated to be positive for antibodies.

But for some minority groups, those numbers are higher: about 5.2 percent for the Black population and 8.2 percent for the Hispanic/Latino population.

The number for the white population is about .9%.

“The seroprevalence widely varies and is much higher among racial and ethnic groups, which points to the fact that we need to do more,” said Dr. Chan.

He says the overall number is somewhat lower than what he expected, but that it could reflect Rhode Island’s success so far in flattening the curve.

“The good news is, we’ve done our jobs, we’ve prevented hospitals from surging,” Dr. Chan said. “But we still need to be vigilant, and be careful, because it means that a lot of Rhode Islanders, potentially are still susceptible to COVID-19.”

The goal of the study was to get a rough sense of how widespread the virus is in Rhode Island, even though it’s not yet clear whether those antibodies actually provide immunity.

“We don’t know if having antibodies is protective against COVID-19,” Dr. Chan said. “So this is a very active area of research, and we’ll know more in the future.”

Friday afternoon Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott added the Health Department will soon roll out more efforts, including multilingual campaigns, to reach those more highly-impacted groups.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island