TAMPA, Fla. - Antibody testing for COVID-19 recently became available at a limited number of drive-through testing sites in Florida. Unless you live near one of those sites or your general practitioner has access to the tests, the antibody tests have not been easy to come by.
However, some blood banks are now offering antibody tests in an effort to promote blood donation, as the pandemic has left them with nationwide shortages.
On May 5, Governor Ron DeSantis announced Florida received 200,000 antibody test kits from Cellex, Inc.
“We’re going to have lanes dedicated to antibody testing at our drive-through sites and so people will be able to come by and get through that,” said DeSantis on May 5.
Nearly three weeks later, those tests are still hard to find. On Friday, the state told FOX 13 antibody testing is available in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Orange and Duval counties.
Even in those counties, the state says the tests are prioritized for first responders and healthcare workers, and only 100 are being administered per day.
OneBlood hopes residents will turn to them for antibody testing and will donate much-needed blood while they're there.
“This does provide an avenue for people to be able to get the testing done, but we also are only on appointment-based,” said Susan Forbes, the senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations at OneBlood.
Forbes said OneBlood just started testing blood donors for antibodies this week.
“People are liking the fact that we are testing the blood supply for the antibody. It’s an added value if you’re a blood donor,” said Forbes.
The blood bank is sending that data back to the state because identifying those who have the COVID-19 antibodies can also save lives by donating their plasma, which can be transfused into patients who are critically ill, boosting their ability to overcome COVID-19.
“That will of course give a better touchpoint there as to additional people who have the antibody. Are there more people who have had the virus than they are aware of?” said Forbes.
The state said the testing remains a critical role in directing resources where they are needed most.
State officials said county emergency operations centers can request the tests. FOX 13 asked the state if any Tampa Bay counties submitted requests, but didn’t get a response.
The governor said the state has ordered thousands more antibody tests to distribute.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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