CLOSE
Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions
LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

The NCH Healthcare System will start COVID-19 antibody testing Tuesday of hospital employees at greatest risk of exposure to the virus.

NCH plans to start the antibody testing in the community in the summer, beginning in mid-July with first responders, like paramedics and Collier County school system employees.

Broader testing of the business community and for residents who are asymptomatic of the virus is targeted to start mid-August and be completed by early September, according to the hospital system.

Antibody testing determines whether someone has had COVID-19 and may have developed antibodies against the virus. The timing of the test is critical for detecting whether the immune system has started to respond with antibodies, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The test equipment was delivered recently to North Naples Hospital, and technicians spent five days getting it calibrated and ready for use.


To provide our community with important public safety information, our newsroom is making some stories related to the coronavirus free to read. To support important local journalism like this, please consider becoming a digital subscriber.


The results can be available in one hour with a high degree of accuracy. People tested through NCH will get their results within two business days. The hospital system is working through the process of whether insurance plans can be billed.

By the end of June, NCH will do up to 2,000 tests per day through blood samples.

In depth: Infectious disease models aren't crystal balls but are useful tools in Florida's fight against COVID-19, modelers say

NCH announced last month it was acquiring the technology and would use it first with its own system employees who are at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help the community reopen.

The technology NCH is using, VITROS 7600, is from Ortho Clinical Diagnostics; its global headquarters is in Raritan, New Jersey.

Dive deeper: NCH acquires high-tech equipment with the goal of testing everyone for coronavirus

To date, 25 VITROS 7600 systems are installed at 15 hospitals in Florida, according to Elaine Andrecovich, an Ortho spokeswoman.

Earlier versions of antibody test technology that can detect antibodies for COVID-19 are being used elsewhere in the state, she said.

NCH is asking the public to be patient as it works through getting the testing done and available to everyone.

“Our first priority is testing staff,” NCH said in a statement. “It’s essential that our NCH staff and physicians are tested. Upon completion of that testing we will be moving on to the community. First responders, government employees, including Collier County Public School employees and the service industry will follow.”

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Michael Dalby, executive director of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, said the antibody testing will provide a little more confidence the Naples community is doing what it can to move beyond the pandemic.

There is a lot that medical researchers do not know about the level of immunity that individuals may have if they test positive for antibodies, NCH said. The test cannot say when someone was infected with the virus.

“As a reminder, the world medical community does not yet know enough about COVID-19 to be able to determine immunity for those who test positive for antibodies,” Jon Kling, NCH’s chief nursing officer, said.

From columnist Brent Batten: NCH acquires high-tech equipment with the goal of testing everyone for coronavirus

Antibody testing may not show whether someone has a current infection because it can take one to three weeks after infection before someone’s immune system starts making antibodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is not known whether having antibodies can protect someone from getting reinfected or how long antibodies are effective.

The CDC is planning a national study of up to 325,000 people to track the spread of the virus, and antibody testing in 25 metropolitan areas will help determine the immune system’s response, according to Reuters. The study is expected to get underway next month or in July.

NCH is advising that people who undergo the test at North Naples Hospital will fall into one of three scenarios based on their results.

The first scenario is they test negative for antibodies and have not been exposed to the virus. Those individuals need to wear a mask and take precautions to protect themselves and others.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

The second possible outcome is testing positive for antibodies, which means they have been exposed and may be an active carrier of COVID-19.

The third outcome is testing positive for antibodies, which means they have been exposed and they are not active carriers of COVID-19.

For people whose results are positive for antibodies, they will need testing for active COVID-19 infection, Kling said.

The COVID-19 test would determine if they are currently infected or if they were infected in the past and are no longer contagious to others, he said.

“In both cases, patients may still need to wear a mask and follow standard safety practices, like thorough hand washing, because immunity cannot be guaranteed,” he said.

A timetable shows testing of “high risk” NCH employees to begin Tuesday and be completed by June 5.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

After that, three more categories of NCH employees will be tested, starting next with “medium-high risk” employees and ending with “low risk and all other” employee testing finished July 10. NCH intends to test nearly all of its 5,000 employees.

Testing of first responders and school employees is scheduled to being July 13 and wrap up July 24. Next on the schedule is testing workers at selected community businesses.

The testing of people in the community who are asymptomatic for COVID-19 is scheduled to begin Aug. 17 and be wrapped up in early September, according to NCH.

CLOSE

NCH is using its Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping robots to disinfect seven different Naples restaurants this week as a thank you for the meals the restaurants have donated to NCH staff during the pandemic. Naples Daily News

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/coronavirus/2020/05/22/coronavirus-naples-residents-have-access-covid-19-antibody-testing-summer/5227958002/