WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — Chester County is going to begin COVID-19 antibody testing for essential service individuals. Chester County will be the first in Pennsylvania to undertake such a test.
Officials say the pin-prick blood test to determine the presence of antibodies will help the county address workforce prioritization with patient care, staff shortages and crisis care management.
The antibody tests will be given to priority individuals and serves to supplement, not replace the COVID-19 swab test.
“If things work out the way we believe they will, we will have millions on the market by May,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Brett Giroir.
That may be the case on the federal level, but in Chester County, antibody blood testing will begin this week.
These tests do not replace the COVID-19 testing, which shows if a person currently has the virus.
Antibody testing shows if a person had the virus before, and if so, could have built-up immunity.
“We can sort of tell their disease history by their immune response, their antibodies,” Dr. Rob Danoff, at the Jefferson Hospital Testing Center, said.
In Chester County, the testing plan is to focus on priority individuals beginning with the Chester County Prison, Pocopson Home and the Chester County Youth Center.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman connected the county with the Chester Springs-based test supplier.
“It allows us to clearly identify who has had the virus and then take actions in terms of, in the prison for example, where you place prisoners and how you do this based on this information,” Dinniman said.
In the coming weeks, the tests will be extended to first responders and health care workers.
Danoff says positive results may alleviate some stress.
“That might help us and show us that we are at decreased risk for getting this disease and give us more confidence in helping people who actually are sick right now with it,” Danoff said.
The goal is to begin antibody testing for the general public.
Federal health officials say before that can happen, the tests on the market must be vetted.
“It is very important that they do what they say they do,” Giroir said.
Unlike COVID-19 test kits, antibody blood tests have been around for quite some time, so national officials do not foresee any shortages.
Chester County already received about 10,000 antibody tests and say they are expecting 10,000 more next week.