This family was randomly selected to take a coronavirus antibody test. Here’s what it’s like

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – headquartered in Atlanta – have partnered with Georgia Department of Public Health and the local health boards in Fulton and Dekalb counties to conduct a survey of randomly selected homes.

Residents who choose to participate are asked to provide a blood sample for the antibody test and answer some questions about their medical history and possible exposure to the coronavirus, the state Department of Public Health said in a news release.

Health professionals who carry out the survey have CDC vests and badges, the news release states, and has a letter from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

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Participation in the survey, which started on Tuesday and goes through May 4, is voluntary.

"We encourage everyone who is visited by the teams to participate in this very important survey that can help public health officials assess the prevalence of Covid-19 in certain areas," Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in a statement. "This is another way that Georgians can play a role in helping to fight this virus."

Antibody tests, also known as serology tests, do not identify an active infection. Instead, they detect antibodies in the immune system that fight the virus.

The presence of antibodies should indicate that a person is exposed to the virus and can be protected from infection again – although it is still unclear how strong that immunity may be or how long it will last.

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Such tests are seen as the key to rolling back social distancing because they give public health officials an idea of ​​the extent to which the virus has spread.

"This study will help us with very important information to assess how widespread the virus is in the community and determine factors associated with infection," said Kate Fowlie, a CDC spokeswoman.

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The information gathered in the survey will also inform public health services strategies to prevent the spread in the future, Fowlie added.

How the survey is

The study focuses on the Fulton and Dekalb counties because they experience community transmission of the virus, according to the Georgia Department of Health. The teams visit randomly selected areas in both counties that are census blocks used by the US Census Bureau.

The agencies hope to register 420 households for the survey, Fowlie said. Some residents have already participated in the survey.

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Yisrael Frenkel and his family, who live in Dekalb County, were among the participants in the survey.

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Frenkel said they had heard about the random antibody testing on the news, so they had an idea of ​​what to expect when they got a knock on the door on Wednesday and saw two health workers in masks and vests.

"On the one hand, we were very happy to contribute to the effort in some way," Frenkel told CNN. "But also cautious, right? People show up at your door and want you to take an examination and give them your blood."

Most US states will begin to reopen within days

After checking the workers' IDs, the family of four felt comfortable and filled out papers, Frenkel said.

They sat up in their car port and answered questions about their behavior, like living at home or going to work, supermarket, restaurants and shops. They were also asked how the pandemic has affected them mentally, financially and otherwise, Frenkel said.

Frenkel and his wife both provided blood tests, he said, but their twin 16-year-old sons rejected the blood draw and answered only health workers' questions.

"They need to be able to collect the data in order to plan," Frenkel said, reiterating that the family was happy to help in any way they could. "Sitting at home, we don't have as many opportunities to assist in the effort."

The family was also just happy to interact with other people after so long practicing social distance, Frenkel said, laughing.

"It was wonderful and strange to have other people standing at our door," he said. "It's so long ago."

CNN's Jason Morris, Debra Goldschmidt, Tina Burnside, Eric Levenson and Arman Azad contributed to this report.

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