Is it possible that he already had COVID-19 and just didn't know it? Maybe he is the one, in some infectious but asymptomatic way, who had passed the coronavirus on to his 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and forced her into quarantine in her room.
It was April, about a week after Elizabeth's 16th birthday. Then a sophomore at
But on occasions, Glenn and Tepring would go to a local coffee shop. Crocker wondered if he caught it and unwittingly passed it on.
"It's my fault," Crocker said he thought. "I infected her."
To confirm or ease his worst fears, Crocker took a COVID-19 antibody test, now being offered -- typically for
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They're blood tests. Individuals can make appointments online or through a physician.
Unlike the nasal swab tests, they do not determine if an individual has an active coronavirus infection. They determine if one has already been exposed to the virus and thus built up antibodies. Antibodies take one to three weeks to develop after infection.
Health experts have begun using antibody tests to determine the prevalence, or rate, of COVID-19 in certain places.
"We've had a lot of people who have thought they had COVID already," said Chief
The department already offers COVID-19 testing for personnel who think they might have active infections. She said about 190 employees have been quarantined because they had the disease or suspected they did.
Antibody testing adds data about how much the illness may have spread.
Crocker got his antibody test result in about two days. Negative: no antibodies.
"I feel like, great, I'm not how she caught it," Crocker said of his daughter. "And if she had it, I didn't catch it."
Crocker said "if" because by the time they got Elizabeth in for the regular nasal swab COVID-19 test, her symptoms had passed and she came up negative. The next step might be to get her an antibody test.
Physicians, however, caution people not to read too much into antibody results.
The most common question is whether testing positive for antibodies means you can roam the world with impunity, safe from getting COVID-19 again.
"I'm going to answer that with a solid maybe," said physician
Having antibodies to the coronavirus means that you have been exposed to it enough to trigger an immune response. But not all immune responses are the same. If you have antibodies to measles, it means you're immune to measles. But having antibodies to herpes doesn't mean you can't get it.
It is possible, even likely, some doctors say, that COVID-19 antibodies do offer some protection against getting reinfected. But no one knows how great that protection is, or how long it might last.
"Is it a year? Is it a month?" said
Even if you test positive for antibodies, physicians still recommend that patients take the recommended precautions: continue to social distance, disinfect, wear masks.
Using an Emergency Use Authorization, the federal
There is a small possibility of false positives (tests say there are antibodies when there are not) and false negatives (says there are no antibodies, when there are). Positive tests are more likely to be accurate in areas such as
Companies such as nursing homes and food processing plants have been using antibody tests to screen their employees. At
In its list of recommendation, the
-- Antibody tests should not be used to determine if someone can return to work
-- Antibody tests should not be used to group people together in settings such as schools, dormitories and correctional facilities.
-- People who wear personal protective equipment at work should continue to wear it even if they test positive for antibodies.
"People should ask themselves, 'Why do I want this test?'" Gorlin said.
For studies tracking the illness, it's valuable. For people who want to check to see if the horrible cough and fever they had months ago might have been COVID-19, it might be valuable.
"If they want this test so they can relax their guard," he said, "they may be acting prematurely."
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