Local doctor discusses COVID-19 study

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) (Photo: CDC)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — One doctor at New Hanover Regional Medical Center is part of another COVID-19 research trial, but it’s not for a vaccine.

That doctor says the study is being done throughout the southeast, including several places in North Carolina.

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“A lot of this is going to help us with the future, and how to not go through what we just went through with COVID,” Dr. Patrick Macguire, a radiation oncologist at NHRMC, said.

The study opened to NHRMC patients last week, and is designed to track COVID symptoms. Macguire says the study first started at the beginning of the summer.

“It’s a really simple symptom trial, mainly,” Macguire said.

Macguire says the trial is open to any adult NHRMC patient or health care worker. He says it’s important to to include health care workers in the study to monitor how they’re doing.

“What are the symptoms like for patients going on, and what’s the population look like?” he said. “So we can really get a nice handle on, what is COVID-19 doing in North Carolina?

Macguire says you can go online to sign up, and you’ll get an email each morning with simple health screening questions. He says it only takes about a minute.

“The first question is, ‘Do you feel healthy?’ and if you say ‘Yes’, there’s a big long list of possible symptoms you could or couldn’t have,” he said “These doctors are trying to figure out if there are some uncommon symptoms they might be able to link.”

For some of those people with symptoms, he says they’ll get an at-home COVID testing kit. He says they have several thousand kits to distribute.

“It’s like a finger prick test kit that you can do in your house and just send it right back in, so people don’t have to leave if they’re concerned, elderly, immuno compromised,” Macguire said.

He says this gives doctors much quicker access to patients.

“To where they can send information to people and get their symptoms back almost in real time, which obviously that infrastructure wasn’t there in the beginning of COVID,” he said.

Even more importantly, he says the research trial is about looking ahead to the future.

“This study is important in that regard,” he said. “It’s not looking backwards. Oh you already have it. Here’s what we do. This is a prospective study throughout the population, and that’s why it’s really important. And it’s going to help us now and for future, god forbid we have future pandemics.”

He says they’ve had 160 people sign up since last week, but hopes to get anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people to join the study, or 5% of the population.

Macguire says the trial will go through the end of the year, but they hope to get more funding to extend it through the spring.