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May 08, 2020

Chester County clears hurdles to begin antibody testing of frontline workers

Longwood Gardens, Public Safety Training Campus designated as test sites

Illness COVID-19

Chester County health officials will begin conducting COVID-19 antibody testing for front-line workers on Friday, May 8, 2020 at Longwood Gardens and the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus in Coatesville..

After a month-long delay, Chester County has received full clearance to begin administering COVID-19 antibody tests to frontline workers beginning Friday.

The county becomes the first in Pennsylvania to undertake large-scale antibody testing, which helps decipher whether a person has been infected, recovered and developed an immune response to SARS-CoV-2.

“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," said Chester County Commissioners chair Marian Moskowitz. "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."

The pin-prick tests, developed by Chester Springs-based Advaite, will be administered at the South Lot of Longwood Gardens (1010 East Baltimore Pike) and at the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus in Coatesville (137 Modena Road).

Chester County had hoped to begin antibody testing last month, but ran into problems gaining approval.

"Permission to actually conduct the testing met with road blocks from the PA Department of Health because of regulatory issues," Moskowitz said. "So instead of channeling our efforts into getting the tests up and running, we have had to focus our energy on overcoming the red tape.”

Testing will be available by appointment only through an online registration system, whose details are provided through contacts in the first responder, hospital and health care, and long-term care facility communities. Family members of employees in these sectors will be eligible to schedule tests.

Chester County has partnered with Bethlehem-based Lehigh Valley Genomics to monitor and report test results in accordance with state law.

Antibody testing, also known as serology testing, is not considered a definitive method to determine whether a person is immune to COVID-19. Recent studies have shown promise in the likelihood of recovered COVID-19 patients producing antibodies, as well as the chances that they have developed some degree of immunity. Doubt still remains about the accuracy of these tests, however.

“The antibody test kits are supplemental to the nasal swab coronavirus testing that is happening and will continue to happen in partnership with our healthcare systems,” said Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “This is not a replacement test for confirming cases, but is another crucial tool that will help us respond to emergencies, treat patients, and care for our older loved ones."

Kichline added that the results of the early antibody testing are favorable, the county hopes to expand availability to additional priority level tiers.

“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," said Moskovitz. "All investment in testing up-front, will, we believe, pay dividends for our future.”

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