Baton Rouge Leaders and Ochsner Health Announce COVID-19 Prevalence Study
Study to Determine Spread of Virus Among Residents of Baton Rouge
Today, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Ochsner Health, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Pennington Biomedical Research Center announced the launch of a Baton Rouge COVID-19 Prevalence Study funded by the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and The Humana Foundation, with additional support from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and Healthy Blue. The study, led by researchers at Ochsner, in cooperation with Pennington Biomedical, will provide free COVID-19 PCR testing and antibody testing to a representative sample of Baton Rouge residents. Results will provide valuable insights into rate of active infections and previous exposures to the virus in the region. Interested residents are invited to learn more at TestBR.org.
“At Ochsner, we know the last few months have been challenging for all of us. We are proud to lead this important study that will help us understand more about the prevalence and impact of COVID-19 in the greater Baton Rouge region,” said Warner Thomas, president and CEO, Ochsner Health. “This is the second prevalence study that Ochsner has been part of, and we are committed to learning more about this virus to build a healthier and stronger Louisiana.”
Led by Ochsner Principal Investigator Amy Feehan, PhD, data from the study will be analyzed to determine how widespread the virus is in our community and which populations have been most impacted. This information will help inform ongoing community reopening plans and provide healthcare providers and leaders with more information about the novel virus. This is the first study of its kind in the Baton Rouge region, which has recently experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Since COVID-19 began, Baton Rouge has worked to find innovative ways to protect its people. We were the first parish to conduct drive-thru community testing, and we will continue to put our community first to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our residents,” said Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor-President, City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. “We encourage residents to join this important study, which will provide us with valuable data about the spread of the virus in our community.”
“It is so important that we put resources into not only treating, but also understanding the virus,” said John Kirwan, Ph.D., executive director, Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “The research that we are conducting will help our area hospitals, businesses and local leaders to better prepare for and recover from the ongoing impact of COVID-19.”
The launch of this study comes just two weeks after results from Ochsner’s Jefferson and Orleans Parish Prevalence Study were unveiled. The study, which tested more than 2,600 volunteers in mid-May, found a prevalence of 7.8%. The study also found that 75% of those with an active infection were asymptomatic or presymptomatic and approximately 40% of individuals with COVID-19 never experience symptoms. To learn more about results from the study, please click here.
“We thank our partners for helping to fund this study, which will ultimately let all of us make informed choices to slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine is widely available,” said William Balhoff, Baton Rouge Area Foundation board chair. “This project represents a unique funding partnership, led by Humana, of competing health insurance companies and their foundations working together for the betterment of our community. We are grateful for the financial support of The Humana Foundation, Blue Cross-Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana and Healthy Blue.”
Who Is Eligible for the Study?
The goal is to enroll at least 2,500 participants in the study, representing a “mini Baton Rouge.” Residents of all races, ethnicities, ages and neighborhoods are encouraged to volunteer so the study can accurately represent our community.
- Must be 18 years or older
- Must be a resident of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension or Livingston Parish
- Must not have tested positive for COVID-19 previously
- Individuals who have previously tested negative for COVID-19 are eligible
How Does It Work?
People who are interested can visit TestBR.org. Volunteering for the study does not guarantee participation. People will be contacted directly if they are selected for the study via a text message with testing location details. Private testing sites for participants only are located throughout the Baton Rouge area. If you are unable to enroll online, you may call 504-703-8283 for assistance.
Upon arrival at a designated testing center, participants will provide verbal consent and complete a brief survey. Testing includes a Nasopharyngeal swab (COVID-19 test) and a blood draw (COVID-19 antibody test). This process takes approximately 10 minutes from start to finish. Participants can expect to receive their results in approximately 3-5 days.
Please note that designated prevalence study testing sites are unable to test individuals not enrolled in the study. Proof of enrollment, including a valid ID and/or text message confirming enrollment, may be required to receive testing.
Why Should People Participate?
Data collected in this study will provide a clearer picture of the spread of COVID-19 in Baton Rouge. Because testing was limited when COVID-19 first occurred locally, it’s possible that many residents who were infected did not know if they had the virus. Those who participate are providing valuable information that will help the region better understand and recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Testing is also completely free of charge for participants.
Hear Why Local Healthcare Leaders Are Funding This Study:
“The Humana Foundation is committed to helping people and communities disproportionally affected by COVID-19 recover from the immediate health crisis and build towards long-term resilience. We are also committed to Baton Rouge, a community where The Humana Foundation and Humana are working together with partners to address social determinants of health and create more Healthy Days together. It is our hope that by helping to fund asymptotic testing research, we will help slow the spread of coronavirus as quickly and effectively as possible, especially for those at higher risk for severe illness.”
-Walter D. Woods, CEO, The Humana Foundation
“The Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force is proud to partner with the Ochsner COVID-19 Prevalence Study. Testing for COVID-19 in vulnerable and at-risk communities is one of the priorities of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Data generated from this study will support the work of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and provide insight into the true prevalence of COVID-19 in communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The results from this study will help illuminate the extent to which the coronavirus has spread undetected in the community. This critical data will help measure the impact of our public health efforts now and guide our COVID-19 response moving forward.”
-Dr. Sandra C. Brown and Dr. Thomas LaVeist, Co-Chairs, Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force
“During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to date the Blue Cross Foundation has invested more than $4.2M in supporting Louisiana communities. These supports have ranged from ensuring that food and financial resources are available to families who need it statewide during these challenging times to specific health related efforts like this prevalence study to ensure we more completely understand the spread of the virus to date. Louisiana is filled with resilient people and we’re glad to support this and other efforts to address the issues we see today and to plan for a strong and healthy future in the months to come.”
-Michael Tipton, President, The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation
“Healthy Blue is proud to partner with local community organizations to support the COVID-19 Prevalence Study of Baton Rouge that will be used to measure the prevalence of COVID-19 in our local neighborhoods and communities across the capital area. It’s through these partnerships that we continue to support and advocate for innovative and creative solutions to promote health, education, and new insights related to COVID-19. Healthy Blue recognizes the importance of working with community partners to further our commitment to improve lives and communities. This is part of Healthy Blue’s coordinated response to COVID-19, supporting programs that improve health and enhance overall quality of life for our members, community organizations, healthcare workers and frontline responders.”
-Aaron Lambert, Plan President, Healthy Blue
If I’m not chosen, but still want a COVID-19 test?
For more information about ongoing community testing provided by Ochsner with no-out-of-pocket expense, please visit www.ochsner.org/testing.
About Ochsner Health
Ochsner Health is a system that delivers health to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf South with a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate. Ochsner Health is a not-for-profit committed to giving back to the communities it serves through preventative screenings, health and wellness resources and partnerships with innovative organizations that share our vision. Ochsner Health healed more than 876,000 people from across the globe in 2019, providing the latest medical breakthroughs and therapies, including digital medicine for chronic conditions and telehealth specialty services. Ochsner Health is a national leader, named the top hospital in Louisiana and a top children’s hospital by U.S. News & World Report. As Louisiana’s leading healthcare educator, Ochsner Health and its partners educate thousands of healthcare professionals annually. Ochsner Health is innovating healthcare by investing in new technologies and research to make world-class care more accessible, affordable, convenient and effective. Ochsner's team of more than 26,000 employees and 4,500 providers are working to reinvent the future of health and wellness in the region. To learn more about Ochsner Health, please visit www.ochsner.org. To transform your health, please visit www.ochsner.org/healthyyou.
About The Baton Rouge Area Foundation
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation unites human and financial resources to enhance the quality of life in South Louisiana. To achieve our mission, we: serve our donors to build the assets that drive initiatives and solutions; engage community leaders to develop appropriate responses to emerging opportunities and challenges; partner with entities from our service area, as well as with other community foundations, in order to leverage our collective resources and create the capacity to be a stimulus of positive regional change; and evaluate our work and share the results with our stakeholders.
About Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The center conducts basic, clinical and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 450 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is committed to helping our millions of medical and specialty members achieve their best health. Our successful history in care delivery and health plan administration is helping us create a new kind of integrated care with the power to improve health and well-being and lower costs. Our efforts are leading to a better quality of life for people with Medicare, families, individuals, military service personnel, and communities at large. To accomplish that, we support physicians and other health care professionals as they work to deliver the right care in the right place for their patients, our members. Our range of clinical capabilities, resources and tools – such as in-home care, behavioral health, pharmacy services, data analytics and wellness solutions – combine to produce a simplified experience that makes health care easier to navigate and more effective.
About The Humana Foundation
The Humana Foundation was established in 1981 as the philanthropic arm of Humana Inc., one of the nation’s leading health and well-being companies. Located in Louisville, Ky., the Foundation seeks to co-create communities where leadership, culture, and systems work to improve and sustain positive health outcomes. For more information, visit humanafoundation.org. Humana and The Humana Foundation are dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility. Our goal is to ensure that every business decision we make reflects our commitment to improving the health and well-being of our members, our employees, the communities we serve, and our planet.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We were recognized in 2019 as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.
About The Blue Cross Foundation
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation works each day to improve the health and lives of Louisianians by empowering everyday people to do extraordinary good. By building and funding coalitions of friends, families and neighbors, the Foundation hopes to build a healthier Louisiana, particularly for its children. The Foundation is funded solely by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, but is a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity. Together, Blue Cross and the Blue Cross Foundation invest $3.5 million each year into Louisiana’s communities and nonprofits.
About Healthy Blue
Healthy Blue is a managed healthcare provider that has been serving the state since 2012, and currently serves the state’s Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion and LaCHIP programs, and starting in 2020 will include D-SNP Medicare services. Healthy Blue, a joint venture between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and Healthy Blue’s parent company, Anthem, Inc., recognizes the challenges low-income and underserved individuals face, and tailors its programs such that health plan members are assured care that is not only accessible, but also accountable, comprehensive, integrated and patient-centered. Healthy Blue provides ongoing community relations and outreach to encourage members to become active participants in their healthcare. Also, through health education programs, members are empowered to choose and sustain healthy lifestyles. To learn more about Healthy Blue, visit www.myhealthybluela.com.