Coronavirus Updates (May 5): Antibody Testing Ramps Up on the Island

Pictured Above: Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo toured Norhwell’s Lake Success laboratory in late April. | Kevin Coughlin photo for NYS Governor’s Office

Testing for antibodies to Covid-19 has expanded significantly on Long Island over the past two weeks, with commercial clinics now offering testing to the public and Suffolk County rolling out testing for first responders.

Suffolk County began including people who have had positive antibody tests for Covid-19 to the total number of positive cases in the county over this past weekend, adding 2,019 people to the rolls of those who have had the disease here, and bringing the total of confirmed positive cases in the county to 37,537 as of Monday afternoon, May 4.

With the assistance of Northwell Health, Suffolk County has begun testing its first responders for antibodies to Covid-19 this week, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his May 4 briefing.

Mr. Bellone said 400 county police officers would be tested Monday at the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood, after which the county plans to roll out antibody testing to local police departments, corrections officers and volunteer firefighters and EMS providers.

Antibody testing, a blood test used to determine if someone had been exposed to the virus in the past, has just begun to be rolled out across the region in the past couple weeks.

CityMD urgent care clinics, including clinics in Cutchogue and Riverhead, began offering antibody testing last week, and Northwell Health’s GoHealth urgent care network, which has clinics in Riverhead, Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton, announced May 4 that they are also now offering antibody testing.

Quest Diagnostics is also offering a direct-to-consumer antibody test, which costs $119 and may be reimbursed by insurance.

New York State last week completed a two-week random antibody test survey of 15,000 residents throughout the state at grocery stores and community centers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said May 3 that the survey shows that 12.3 percent of the population, statewide, likely have antibodies to Covid-19. On Long Island, 11.3 percent of those surveyed had antibodies, while in New York City 19.9 percent had antibodies. In Westchester and Rockland counties, 13.9 percent of residents tested had antibodies to the disease. Farther upstate, the number of residents with antibodies was in the single digits.

The state is now doing antibody testing of health care workers, first responders and transit workers in New York City.

While it has been difficult for residents to qualify for testing for an active Covid-19 infection, commercial clinics are providing wider access to antibody testing.

CityMD is testing anyone who previously had symptoms of the disease but has had no symptoms for 14 days, along with people who believe they may have come in contact with someone who had the virus or who have previously had a Covid-19 diagnosis but have recovered.

According to GoHealth, “if you have been at risk for exposure, whether you have had symptoms or not, a provider will evaluate you and will recommend testing for your specific situation.”

Both CityMD and Northwell’s GoHealth urgent care centers are using antibody blood tests tests manufactured for the Abbott Architect machine.

Abbott claims the test has a 100 percent accuracy rating, while the European Union, which just approved this test, says it has a 99 percent accuracy rating, according to the UK newspaper The Independent.

The Abbott Architect machine, which runs the antibody tests offered commercially on Long Island.

Both health clinics caution that this test does not imply or confirm that you have developed an immunity to the Covid-19 virus.

While conventional wisdom among medical professionals has been that people who have antibodies to viruses in their blood have some degree of immunity to that strain of virus for some time, there has not been enough research on Covid-19 to determine if that is true for this virus. There have been reports that people have been reinfected after testing negative for the disease.

CityMD said there is no co-payment for Covid-19 antibody testing at its clinics, as required under the CARES Act.

“CityMD does not bill for lab testing and inquiries regarding lab bills should discussed directly with the lab partner,” according to the clinic’s website.

GoHealth states that “during this health crisis, there is $0 cost to patients with insurance, Medicaid or Medicare for (1) a provider evaluation and (2) the administration of an antibody (serological) test. For those who do not have insurance, we offer an affordable same-day payment option that includes the provider evaluation and the administration of the test.”

Both health clinics say participants should receive results in three to five days.

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Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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