Southwest Health System is offering antibody testing to determine whether a person has had COVID-19.
The testing is available to anyone and begins July 8. Testing locations are at the main Southwest Memorial Hospital lab or at the lab at 111 N. Park St.
If a patient is self-paying, no medical provider order is required, and the cost is $35. If a patient wishes to have the testing cost submitted to their insurance carrier, then a provider’s order will be required.
Testing is done in-house, and results are available in the same day.
The Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody test is pretty definitive and will either be positive or negative for the antibody, said Marc Meyer, infection control specialist and pharmacist for SHS.
Positive results are accurate 90% of the time, and negative tests are 100% accurate.
Many hospital employees have taken the blood-draw test, Meyer, said and they all came up negative for the antibody, meaning they have not had the COVID-19 infection.
Antibodies are a part of the body’s immune system. They attach to viruses and neutralize them before they can enter cells and replicate.
But while testing positive for the COVID-19 antibody means some immune response has developed, it does not mean the patient is necessarily completely immune, health officials warn, because not enough is known about the virus.
Precautions such as mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing should continue whether positive or negative.
How long the COVID-19 antibodies last in the body is not well understood. And whether a patient who has been infected and recovered could get infected again is unclear.
“Just because you test positive for the antibody, does not mean you can’t get COVID again,” Meyer said.
Antibody testing is helpful for managing the outbreak because the data provides more information on virus infection rates in the general populations and locations. It can shed light on the number of asymptomatic carriers had the disease.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment has included a data set for positive antibody tests as part of its tracking of the virus.
COVID-19 antibodies most commonly become detectable one to three weeks after symptom onset, at which time evidence suggests that infectiousness likely is greatly decreased and that some degree of immunity from future infection has developed, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
However, additional data are needed before modifying public health recommendations based on antibody test results, including decisions on discontinuing physical distancing and using personal protective equipment.
In some instances, antibody test results may help identify people who might qualify to donate blood that can be used to manufacture convalescent plasma external icon as a possible treatment for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19.
Patient visitation restrictions have eased somewhat at Southwest Memorial Hospital.
Starting July 6, inpatients, outpatients and clinic patients will be allowed one designated, consistent visitor. This individual will be required to wear a mask, must be healthy and may be asked to undergo temperature monitoring.
Visitors will be asked to remain with their patient and access around campus is still restricted. COVID19 patients (and others requiring isolation precautions) are exempt from this change and will not be permitted any visitors. Inpatients in ICU and medical/surgical units will have visiting hours from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. only. The cafeteria remains closed to visitors.
The drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is open on the Southwest Memorial campus EMS building Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.