MONTREAL -- Héma-Québec got the idea from a similar project in the Nertherlands: it would collect samples from about 6,500 regular blood donors here in Quebec and test them for COVID-19 antibodies.

That, they hoped, would give Quebecers their first sense of how many people had the virus—even if they didn’t test positive.

The organization exceeded its goal, ending up with over 7,000 blood samples, and in two weeks it’ll release the first results.

That’s just the beginning, explains Dr. Marc Germain of Héma-Québec.

“Basically, we are going to contact donors who test positive [for the antibodies] and also a subgroup who test negative, and then ask them about whether they had symptoms compatible with COVID-19 or whether they were diagnosed with COVID-19,” says Germain.

That should give an idea of how many people not only had the virus but had no idea because they were asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms.

About half the blood samples come from blood donors in the Montreal region, which will be especially helpful as researchers try to track the spread of the virus through Quebec’s hot spot.

Crucially, however, the results still won’t show who is immune to COVID-19, since having had it is not proven to make a person immune.

Learn more in the video above, which contains Germain’s full interview.