What Will We Learn From the Results of Covid-19 Antibody Testing?

Widespread Covid-19 antibody testing has commenced in New York, leading to long lines and some new data. Yesterday, I went to my doctor’s office to take part in New York’s massive antibody testing initiative. I had gotten sick twice in February and had a lingering cough that lasted until the first week of April. I, like so many other New Yorkers, want to know if I have been exposed to the coronavirus and have potential immunity or partial immunity.

By Keith Langston

So far, there have been no conclusive studies as to whether or not antibodies for the new coronavirus provide immunity or not. However, studies show that for the previous coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS, antibodies do provide immunity, at least for a period of time. But what’s most important about the antibody study is that it will give a much clearer image of how many people have been infected, and therefore, a much more accurate death rate.

Grand Central Terminal, empty due to the pandemic (Photo: tetiana.photographer)

In New York City, since widespread antibody testing began last week, it’s already been shown that almost 1 in 4 New Yorkers have been exposed to the virus. This is extremely important information because it can reveal just how deadly the virus is. It also helps shine a light on how many people had the virus without needing hospitalization, which could help pave the way for reopening the economy.

During my visit to the doctor, I had to wait around three and a half hours for my antibody test. The line was spaced out six feet apart, and only five patients were allowed in the waiting room at one time. During my wait, NBC Nightly News was filming and interviewed many of us in line. One question NBC asked all of us was why we wanted the antibody test. Some said they had symptoms within the last few months, others said they had roommates who were sick, and some simply wanted peace of mind.

While the antibody tests aren’t perfect, and more information is needed as to how to contain and eradicate the virus, the initiative is going to be our first glimpse into how widespread the pandemic truly was. It’s also going to be a tool to knowing how many people get the virus, yet remain asymptomatic the whole time.

 

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