Dr. Melinda Ashton from Hawaii Pacific Health joined the COVID-19 Care Conversation today to discuss antibody testing and contract tracing.
Ashton started by sharing key differences between the COVID-19 test and the antibody test. The COVID-19 test detects current infection, while the antibody test detects disease-fighting proteins in the body that were created to neutralize the virus. If antibodies are present, this indicates the individual was exposed to COVID-19 in the past. The presence of antibodies means a person has immunity, but officials are saying this cannot be confirmed yet in the coronavirus. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is uncertain whether having antibodies may protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.
Hawaii Pacific Health is offering free antibody testing for its 7,200 employees in an effort to gather data that will help assess the level of infection in health care workers.
The process is two-part, a questionnaire followed by the antibody blood test. The questionnaire relates to the individual’s experience during the pandemic, to understand their work situation and potential exposure, in relation to their individual antibody test results.
Some of the questions ask whether the individual has traveled somewhere, whether they were around people who traveled and whether they have been around infected or uninfected patients. Since the announcement was made last week, more than 3,000 employees have already expressed interest in participating.
When asked about antibody testing being made available to the public on an individual basis, Ashton believes it would make more sense to do testing in population groupings such as essential workers, tourism industry workers and more. Hawaii Pacific Health is looking into partnering with interested local businesses to arrange additional testing.
Ashton said there is not enough information about COVID-19. She hopes that the results from antibody testing will help health officials to better understand coronavirus, allowing state and government officials to make informed decisions.
Watch here and submit your questions through our Facebook page.
Join us Thursday when Lt. Gov. Josh Green will be our guest. University of Hawaii President David Lassner is scheduled as the guest on Friday.
The COVID-19 Care Conversation, sponsored by Hawai’i Executive Collaborative and Hawaii Pacific Health, airs live every weekday at 10:30 a.m. on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Yunji de Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji discuss the latest news, resources and community concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in Hawaii.