Rapid antibody testing by independent medical offices has stepped in to fill a void left by more official testing sites in West Volusia, but those antibody tests act only as guidance, and have not been fully evaluated as to their effectiveness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, the rapid antibody results are not sent to the Florida Department of Health, which accepts only commercial lab results or results from state-run rapid-result sites.
The push to reopen the economy, along with an associated spike in cases, created a need for rapid testing for many of the workers who became the new front lines of the novel coronavirus — bartenders and food workers.
In the absence of testing provided by local governments and the private sector, and the long wait times for results — companies like CVS and Family Health Source can take an average of five business days to process samples, and results from the DOH can take far longer — local medical clinics, like the DeLand Wellness Center, have stepped in.
“We’re in such a foggy time,” owner Julia Gennaro said. “Lots of people are still waiting on nasal swabs … [our test] provides them quick answers on where they may be.”
Gennaro and her clinic say they administer a finger prick test that covers two types of antibodies: IgM, which indicates a current infection, and IgG, which indicates a person has been infected in the past. The test is FDA-approved for emergency use, Gennaro said.
DeLand has seen a spike in COVID-19 positive cases since the second phase of reopening began June 5; from 60 cases on June 5 to 519 cases on July 7, a 765-percent increase in cases in just over a month.
In response, the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation signed an emergency order June 26 to halt on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars.
But in the interim, and for workers in other industries, waiting for results from a nasal swab test means days or even weeks off of work — a luxury that both workers and business owners cannot afford.
“Help people get back to work and know what they are coming back to — that’s the bulk of what we do,” Gennaro said.
Some Downtown DeLand merchants have used Gennaro’s tests regularly, she said. Gennaro and her team will test employees in their personal vehicles, and the results are ready in about 15 minutes. For an individual getting tested, the cost is about $75.
Gennaro warns the merchants and others of some of the limitations of the tests — although IgM antibodies indicate a current infection, they can take over a week to appear on the test, there is no evidence that antibodies will prevent reinfection, and everyone should continue to wear a mask no matter what their results.
The CDC has released only interim guidelines for antibody testing, and does not recommend that antibody testing be the sole basis used to diagnose COVID-19 infections.
If a person tests positive on the IgM test, Gennaro refers them to the DOH to get a viral test, she said.
“I can’t force anybody to do anything,” Gennaro said, although she added that from anecdotal evidence, most people seemed to have followed up with a viral test.
The DOH does not currently use the data from Gennaro’s tests, she said.
The state releases weekly antibody test results from commercial labs analyzing blood draws, and weekly antibody results from state-run “point-of-care” sites (point-of-care refers to sites that give results on-site).
There are only five state-run POC antibody testing sites in Florida.
Because of the restriction on amounts of viral tests, and the capacity of labs to analyze those tests, some local testing sites may require specific symptoms to be present, adding an additional tangle for those who think they have been exposed but might not be presenting symptoms.
“CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians,” the Volusia County COVID-19 testing information page reads.
And the cost per test may differ by provider — Family Health Source and CVS offer the viral tests at no cost, for instance, while an antibody test from DeLand Wellness Center costs $75 and Quest Diagnostics requires either a doctor’s order, or that the test be bought by the individual.
Some testing sites, like CVS, offer online COVID-19 assessment tests to determine if someone should be tested.
Rapid antibody tests are an imperfect solution, Gennaro said.
“It’s the best we can do right now,” she said. “To businesses, to people that need to get back to work, to people who need to know their employees are healthy, it gives them some peace of mind.”
“We’re just a small piece to the puzzle,” Gennaro added. “The DOH is really in charge of the full picture.”
Family Health Source — By appointment only 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1205 S. Woodland Blvd., DeLand 386-327-6045
State of Florida — No appointment needed 9 a.m. while supplies last
Publix at 2100 Saxon Blvd., Deltona
901 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand
2187 Howland Blvd., Deltona
AdventHealth CentraCare — By appointment only
2293 S Woodland Blvd., DeLand 386-279-7010
1360 Saxon Blvd., Orange City 386-917-0074
Quest Diagnostics locations — By appointment only, with a doctor’s order, or a test purchased from Quest Direct
1702 N. Woodland Blvd. Suites 108 & 110, DeLand 386-734-7167
2756 Enterprise Road, Orange City
2783 Elkcam Blvd., Unit 208, Deltona
915 Doyle Road, Suite 305, Deltona
101 Howland Blvd., Deltona
DeLand Wellness Center — Walk-ins and by appointment Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
122 S. Amelia Ave., DeLand 386-313-3200
For more information, including costs, see the Volusia County testing website at https://www.volusia.org/services/public-protection/emergency-management/pin/coronavirus/faqs.stml, or contact the individual provider.
Because the pandemic is constantly evolving, this information is likely to change. Contact your local health care providers for specific, up-to-date information.