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April 06, 2020

Chester County begins COVID-19 antibody testing – the first in Pennsylvania to do so

The tests indicate whether people have developed immunity – a key tool for determining asymptomatic cases

Illness Coronavirus
040620_coronavirus.png Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins/CDC

Chester County will begin COVID-19 antibody testing this week for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, becoming the first in Pennsylvania roll out serology tests.

COVID-19 antibody tests will soon be available to workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in Chester County, officials announced Monday. 

These serology tests can determine whether a person previously has been infected, even unknowingly, by detecting antibodies – the immune system's response to the virus – in the bloodstream. 

Such tests are expected to help mitigate the crisis, as essential workers who have developed immunity could work on the front lines with little worry. Eventually, they could play an important role in reopening society.

Chester County will be the first in Pennsylvania to offer the tests. Officials said they will help the county address “workforce prioritization with patient care, staff shortages and crisis care management.”

The county has received 10,000 blood test kits, with another 10,000-kit shipment expected next week, County Commissioner Chair Marian Moskowitz said. They were purchased from Advaite, a Chester County-based company.

The kits will be distributed to first responders, health care professionals and long-term facility staffers. The test, which involves a pin prick, also will be administered to staffers and inmates at Chester County Prison. Testing is expected to begin this week, and results are projected to be available within 15 minutes.

The tests are not a substitute for diagnostic COVID-19 tests, as they do not determine whether a person currently is infected.

"We are undertaking the antibody blood test as another weapon in the fight to control coronavirus," Health Department Director Jeanne Casner said. "Knowledge of who has developed antibodies to the virus can help us tremendously in our strategy to respond to emergencies, treat patients and care for the elderly.”

County officials insisted that personal protective equipment required for testing will not take away PPE being used on the front lines.

“As we review the results of the antibody blood tests, we will work with first responders, hospitals and long-term care facilities to determine how the results can best be used to manage this crisis,” Commissioner Michelle Kichline said. “It is our intention to continue sourcing more of the blood test kits. The more we have, the more people we can test to get a fuller picture of how many have had COVID-19 in Chester County, either knowingly or unknowingly.”

Pennsylvania has 12,980 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 162 deaths, as of Monday afternoon. Chester County has 307 positive coronavirus cases and three deaths due to COVID-19 complications.

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