This town in California is testing every resident for coronavirus and antibodies

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A remote Northern California hamlet became one of the first places in the world Monday to attempt to comprehensively test all of its residents for Covid-19 and the antibodies believed to make one immune from infection.

The community-wide free testing effort in Bolinas, California, is voluntary. The town is one of two communities taking part in the new study launched by the University of California, San Francisco, with the aim of gaining a more complete understanding of how the virus invisibly spread during the initial shortfall of comprehensive nationwide testing.

Testing began in Bolinas — a town of fewer than 2,000 people — on Monday, and residents have four days to visit a pop-up center to receive nasal swabs and a finger prick test.

On Saturday, April 25, the second community, the vastly different and densely populated Mission District of San Francisco, will begin testing, with some 6,000 residents having four days to get their swabs and jabs.

More than 700 people have been tested in Bolinas so far, according to venture capitalist Jyri Engestrom, one of those responsible for making the project a reality.

Along with donations from several tech entrepreneurs, a GoFundMe page was launched to help raise the approximately $400,000 needed for the operation. Engestrom notes that 93% of the over 150 donors on GoFundMe donated less than $5,000, and said they have raised around $300,000 to date.

The study is led by a team of researchers from the UCSF Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

“All our public health decisions, including when it will be possible to relax regional and statewide shelter-in-place orders, are driven by rough assumptions about how this virus behaves based on very limited data,” said Bryan Greenhouse, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF and a CZ Biohub Investigator. “Studying in detail how the virus has spread in these two distinctive communities will give us crucial data points that we can extrapolate to better predict how to control the virus in similar communities nationwide.”

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