A Press Release from Kaweah Delta
As the number of people in Tulare County with COVID-19 continues to rise, Kaweah Delta will begin voluntary antibody testing for its team next week, with plans to then offer the test to first responders in the area.
Kaweah Delta will begin to first test its staff, along with physicians who care for patients at Kaweah Delta. Up first will be staff who have had direct contact with COVID-19 patients.
“There is still so much we don’t know, so we expect this to just give us insight into the number of people who have had the virus, but without symptoms,” said Gary Herbst, Chief Executive Officer.
An antibody test, or a serology test, screens for antibodies in the blood, not the COVID-19 virus. A person’s body makes antibodies when it fights an infection.
The test will show Kaweah Delta who was exposed to COVID-19 and had the virus, even if they did not have symptoms. “A positive test indicates the presence of antibodies to the COVID-19 virus,” said Randy Kokka, Kaweah Delta’s Director of Laboratory Services. “It is uncertain at this time if the antibodies will impart immunity against repeat infection or how long lasting immunity will be.”
Team members who test positive for the antibodies will be required to continue wearing a mask, practice good hand hygiene, and monitor themselves for symptoms.
“The selection of our COVID-19 antibody test was based on rigid quality parameters and we are confident it meets our standards,” Kokka said. “This test will help track exposure to the disease so we can better track and understand true the infection rate in our area.”
After the front-line staff members go through testing, the process will expand to all other employees in a controlled way. The next phases of testing will be offered to individuals in patient care, or with minimal patient contact, followed finally by those with no patient contact. This includes staff, whether clinical or in another capacity, on-site and remote workers.
To date, Kaweah Delta has done more testing than anyone in the region and this week collected a record number of specimens from people requiring testing for COVID-19 from its specimen collection site on Floral Street in downtown Visalia. Since March, Kaweah Delta has collected 5,847 specimens from people suspected of having COVID-19 and of those, 582 were positive.
On Friday, Kaweah Delta’s Street Medicine Program began administering free COVID-19 tests to the homeless in Visalia.