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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – As the world is getting back to some normalcy, medical experts want to reemphasize the pandemic isn’t over, which is why the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s research team is trying to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on first responders.

OSU Wexner Medical Center and researchers at the OSU College of Medicine have been awarded a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Cancer Institute in the National Institutes of Health to study the long-term, longitudinal impact of COVID-19 on first responders, healthcare workers, and the general population.

Ashish Panchal, a professor of emergency medicine at OSU, said the goal is to enroll 2,000 first responders– including their family members or those they have close contact with.

“The big focus about first responders for us is that they’re the ones on the front lines,” Panchal said.

The grant will follow first responders for five years. When they first enroll, they will have a survey, blood samples, and then get viral samples to get a better idea of their status.

“We’re not only doing surveillance and their household contacts, but also looking into what’s in their blood?” Panchal said. “What kind of antibodies they have. Last but not least, look at the communication. It’s not just to learn about COVID but also to learn about the vaccines and how well they work.”

Any first responder who is part of the population can enroll in the study.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re vaccinated or not vaccinated,” Panchal said. “We want to see how people who are vaccinated are impacted, and those who aren’t vaccinated. Then we actually know what’s happening in the community.”

Lieutenant Thad Turano with the Columbus Division of Fire said he is one of the people taking part in the survey and he’s learned he did have COVID-19 at some point.

“I never got tested in December when my son had COVID,” Turano said. “We had quarantined already because of the exposure. We never ended up getting tested just to see if anyone else had COVID. When the researchers tested me, I tested positive.”

He encourages anyone to take part in the study, saying the research itself is fairly easy.

‘It takes me two seconds to do every week surveys and maybe five minutes to do the monthly survey,” Turano said.

Turano is taking part in this research in efforts to keep his family safe and because he knows the importance of public health.

“We respond to the public all the time,” he said. “I think we worry about public health. So, what can we do to help? How can we depict patients that are going to have bad reactions?”

For more information on how to get involved, click here.

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