MILWAUKEE, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) - There are two types of tests to know about in this "new normal" world of the coronavirus: a test to show if you CURRENTLY have COVID-19, and a test to show if you may have had COVID-19 PREVIOUSLY and now have built up the antibodies to the virus.
But finding an antibody test right now, at least in Wisconsin, can be tricky.
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"We have no idea at this time if or when we'll get any testing kits," my personal doctor's office at one of the state's largest healthcare providers replied to me over email when I inquired about taking an antibody test there, "[and] it's best that you contact the CDC."
Several private lab companies nationwide, including ARCpoint Labs, which has a location in Brookfield, Wisconsin, have been administering several COVID-19 antibody tests (or serological tests) at various sites across the country.
"We have a rapid test that the FDA has provided a preliminary authorization as long as the manufacturers have submitted clinical data into the FDA," ARCpoint President and CEO John Constantine told Spectrum News 1. "[It's] important to know that it's not FDA-approved-- as far as I know, there's not an FDA-approved product on the market yet, but everyone is working towards what's called an "Emergency Use Authorization"-- that's the point the FDA has cleared the product and reviewed the data, and it's gone to that next step toward that approval process."
I took the test at their Orland Park, Illinois, location on Thursday morning but hadn't received the results as of Sunday night.
Even if someone's able to find one of the antibody tests out there and that person were to test positive for the antibodies, the impact on one's immunity is still unclear.
"We like to say that our test results are going to give you confidence, but you can't be absolutely sure in those results," Constantine said. "This is continuning to evolve and as the science gets better, we're going to be able to provide things like quantitative values which are going to be able to tell you exactly what this means, but right now it's directionally correct information."
"[The World Health Organization] is being very cautious [about antibody effectiveness],” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, told CNN on Sunday morning. “I think what the W.H.O. was saying is we don’t know how long that effective antibody lasts, and I think that is a question we have to explore over the next few months and the next few years.”
Dr. Birx went on to say that both CDC and FDA continue to analyze antibody testing results.
While the effectiveness of the antibodies is still being studied, a recent study in New York state revealed that approximately 14% of the general population had already developed the antibodies to the coronavirus.
"We did 3,000 surveys in about 19 counties, 40 localities across the state," said Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference last week. "The surveys were collected at grocery stores, box stores, etc. These were people who were not at work so they're probably not essential workers, okay, so that has to be calibrated. But what we found so far was the statewide number is 13.9% tested positive for having the antibodies."
There's no data yet for similar antibody results in Wisconsin as the research and testing continues to catch up across the country.