OXNARD, Calif. - Dignity Health St. John's Regional Medical Center and the Oxnard Fire Department have partnered up to provide COVID-19 antibody testing for first responders.
The fire department received 10,000 antibody tests.
“St. John's has an agreement with Abbott Laboratory, that is who we are getting our testing materials from,” said Alex Hamilton, Assistant Chief with the Oxnard Fire Department. “They have high frequent machines so they can test up to 200 samples per hour checking for antibodies. We already had an existing relationship with St. John's. The medical director for our paramedic program is an ER doctor at St. John's.”
The process began last week in the preliminary stage with 292 administrators tested; three coming back positive for antibodies. Monday was the first day that testing had opened up to first responders around the county.
“Any responder agency has the ability to sign up, and so we have made it available,” said Hamilton. “Today the agencies that are participating is Oxnard police and fire departments, Port Hueneme police, Ventura Fire and Police along with State Parks.”
NewsChannel reporter Senerey De Los Santos was also tested.
“The first thing we do is a health screening making sure there is no fever, and making sure there is no recent illness or sickness,” said Hamilton. “Then we will input the information, and at that point you will then become a barcode. That barcode will then be stuck to your sample, and you get a copy of your bar code as well. That is the way we track the samples.
The whole process takes less than 10 minutes and results will be emailed within 24 hours.
“The test will reveal if people have been exposed to the virus,” said Hamilton. “Some of the things that it might tells us is when the virus first came into the county depending when these people were last sick. So anyone who test positive for antibodies in their blood will become really significant. Blood that contains antibodies, which is called convalescent plasma, can be used to give that blood to people that are ill with the virus. Those antibodies could help fight the infection for that person.”
The antibody test comes from Abbott Laboratory and is FDA approved, but there’s a few unknowns.
“Some of the questions that are still unanswered at this point is whether of not you can get the virus a second time,” said Hamilton. “Or how long that immunity will last. So there is still some unanswered questions because we are still learning about this virus.
St. John's hospital and the fire department is working closely to with the Ventura County Public Health Department in sharing the results.
“I think that this will become critical information to drive policy decisions about what we can do next and how we can protect our first responders,” said Hamilton. “But more importantly it will be used to help open up the community again. Once we are finished with the first responders we will look at other essential workers and then we can really hopefully open the economy up and getting people back to work.”
Oxnard fire says they plan to do 200 to 400 test a day, hoping to finish first responders by the end of the week, and then begin testing essential city workers by next week.