‘I felt like I won the lottery’: Providence woman randomly selected for voluntary COVID-19 research test


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A Providence woman has some feedback for the state after becoming one of the 5,000 randomly chosen Rhode Islanders for COVID-19 diagnostic and serology testing.

“When we first arrived [to get tested], they were just opening up and setting up. So it took them a little bit of time to get the kinks out,” Anna Lysyanskaya, a Brown University professor, told WPRI 12. “I think as they continue doing tests, they’ll get it all sorted out.”

Last week, state officials announced the first round of serology, or blood, testing for COVID-19 in Rhode Island. The state will be performing both those tests as well as diagnostic (nasal swabs) tests, initially at four Stop & Shop locations, hoping the test results will offer a better picture of how widespread the virus is in Rhode Island.

The R.I. Department of Health mailed letters to 5,000 randomly selected Rhode Islanders across the state inviting them to get tested at one of the sites.

If people are tested and their nasal swab test result is positive, the department will call them and start the contact tracing process. The participants have been randomly selected from census blocs across the state, according to Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.

On Friday, Lysyanskaya said she received a letter asking her and her family to get tested at the Stop & Shop in North Providence.

“It said your household was chosen to be one of 5,000 households in Rhode Island to be tested. We were chosen at random,” she explained. “For some reason, I was really excited. I felt like I won the lottery, but that’s because I’m a nerd. … The more data we have, the better decisions the state can make about what to do, when to reopen, what’s safe and not safe.”

On Wednesday morning, Lysyanskaya and her husband went to get tested at the designated Stop & Shop. She said once they were able to get inside the testing center, the process itself was quick.

But after completing the tests, Lysyanskaya took to social media to provide some feedback on the experience for the Department of Health. Her suggestions include making the process more organized and doing more to ensure thorough sanitation.

Lysyanskaya said she doesn’t know when she will get the results from her tests, but she said she’s less concerned with the outcome of her own results and more focused on the data the state is able to collect from this random testing.

She, like Gov. Gina Raimondo, is now encouraging anyone who gets invited to participate in this testing to do so.

“Anybody who gets a letter in the mail, I think it’s very important they show up and participate,” she said. 

During her coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Raimondo said two Stop & Shop locations in Providence are being added to the four stores where the invitation-only testing was already being done.

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