antibody

Main Street Family Care’s Betsy Stewart takes the coronavirus antibody test in a Facebook Live video to show people what the process looks like.

The COVID-19 test swabs have been around for more than a month now and are becoming increasingly more available. Main Street Family Care is now also offering an antibody blood test that can determine if an individual already contracted the novel coronavirus.

“Antibodies for the COVID-19 develop one to two weeks after becoming infected,” Main Street Family Care’s chief medical officer Dr. Timbo Taylor said in a press release. “However, it is possible to still be actively infected and contagious for a week or more after developing the antibodies. A positive antibody test paired with a negative virus infection test will help conclude if a patient has already had the virus and is no longer actively contagious.”

The antibody test has been available at all 16 Main Street Family Care locations, including Alexander City, since Monday and chief sales and marketing officer Betsy Stewart said between the viral swabs and antibody tests, the clinics have tested more than 500 patients the first two days.

“We have definitely seen an overwhelming response,” Stewart said. “The clinics have been packed the last few days.”

In Alexander City, about 20 tested for the antibody and 134 have tested in total between antibody tests and viral tests since Main Street Family Care first started testing March 20.

“The testing process has gone smoothly,” Stewart said. “The biggest thing is there are still some questions out there. LabCorp has said that this test is developed specifically for the COVID-19 strain but people could receive a false positive (on the antibody test) due to another coronavirus or other virus someone may have had.”

Another concern many had is the cost of the test which is still in question.

“Congress has directed insurance companies to cover COVID-related treatments so we expect them to cover this,” Stewart said. “Currently there’s not even a CPT code (used for reporting medical services provided by healthcare providers) for it to charge it.”

Main Street Family Care is currently waiving all copays, so theoretically it should be at no cost to the patient.

“As the lab companies figure it out and insurance companies move to quickly try to get it set up, there are a few pieces lagging behind,” Stewart said. “If a patient does get a bill, they should call their insurance company and discuss it. We’re submitting everything with a COVID-exposure risk diagnosis, which should indicate it’s covered.”

As it stands, anyone can walk into a Main Street Family Care location and request a COVID-19 antibody test with no criteria.

“The same goes for the viral test,” Stewart said. “We’re slowly, quietly eliminating those criteria. The lab is also slowly giving us 50 (tests) at a time instead of 20.”

A Main Street Family Care press release said, “Governors and health experts agree increased viral and antibody testing will help provide the data needed to make critical decisions around reopening businesses across the state. In addition, health experts are learning the virus was spreading in communities even before the first documented cases, leaving many to wonder if they have already had the coronavirus.”

Main Street Family Care is also offering the viral and antibody testing to employers to get an understanding of those infected and those who have been infected in their work forces.

“Testing positive for the (coronavirus) antibodies tells us if the patient has already had the coronavirus and may be potentially immune,” the press release said. “However, until experts know more on whether or not a patient can become infected more than once, the antibody tests cannot conclusively determine if a person is immune to the coronavirus.”

Stewart filmed a Facebook Live video of herself being tested as she said the Main Street Family Care Facebook page was exploding with people asking all kinds of questions.

“I filmed myself going in to get (the antibody) test,” Stewart said. “And I expect my results in a few days and I will share those on another live video. I hope it will help answer some of the questions on what to expect.”

View the videos on Main Street Family Care’s main Facebook page.

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.