County begins COVID-19 antibody testing
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
In an effort to provide additional safeguards for its essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chester County began providing full-scale antibody testing for priority healthcare, first responder and long-term care facility individuals on May 8 at two locations – Longwood Gardens and the county’s Public Safety Training Campus in South Coatesville.
The county is the first in Pennsylvania to undertake antibody testing.
The test, administered in the form of a simple pin-prick test kit manufactured by Chester County-based Advaite, is now being given not only to first responders and healthcare workers, but to the members of their households.
County government has contracted with Bethlehem-based Lehigh Valley Genomics, a laboratory that holds the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate to perform high complexity testing, which is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Although the antibody test can be easily administered by qualified healthcare personnel -- with results that are available in 15 minutes -- the state’s Department of Health currently requires the monitoring of the test by a CLIA laboratory.
“We have been investigating every option open to us to try and get ahead of the coronavirus, and we know that determining who has developed antibodies will be extremely useful in helping us make informed decisions on the way to physical, emotional and economic recovery,” Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz said. “That’s why we researched the best options available, followed federal and state guidelines, and subsequently purchased tens of thousands of antibody test kits from a manufacturer based right here in Chester County.
“This test will help keep our frontline heroes safe, while collecting information on the spread of COVID-19 in Chester County that will help inform decisions made by policy makers and healthcare providers locally and nationally,” said County Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “Most importantly, now we can start the process of antibody testing for the good of Chester County residents."
County Commissioner Michelle Kichline said that while the antibody testing will not be a replacement test for confirming cases of COVID-19, it is another crucial tool that will help the county respond to emergencies, treat patients, and care for seniors.
“If this provides us with results we are expecting, we hope to be able to expand antibody testing to additional priority level tiers, to help us manage this crisis. It also will give us more information as we plan and prepare for the safe re-opening of Chester County,” she said.
Based on the recommendations of Chester County health officials, the County Commissioners are also considering options for coronavirus nasal swab testing for congregate care facilities, first responders and healthcare workers, and to supply healthcare systems that may need additional tests.
“The more we know, the more we can plan to open Chester County in a way that balances safety with our business and economic needs,” Moskowitz said. “All investment in testing up-front, will, we believe, pay dividends for our future.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.