No timeline for arrival of COVID-19 antibody tests in Florida

COVID-19 antibody tests are coming to Florida’s drive-thru testing sites, Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday. Antibody testing data could help state officials see how the virus spread before widespread testing was available.

“We’re going to have lanes dedicated to antibody testing at our drive-thru sites, and so people will be able to come by and get through that,” said DeSantis.

The governor said the state received 200,000 antibody tests but he did not say when individual county testing sites would get them.

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“We’ve done a survey of all the hospitals that may need some. So we’re going to send them to any hospital that wants it,” said DeSantis.

Doctors said the quality of those tests is what matters most. Antibody testing is seen as a critical step toward analyzing the rate of infection by determining who was exposed to the virus and therefore developed antibodies to fight it off.

But scientists have found antibody tests are riddled with inaccuracies.

READ: Medical experts anticipate increase in cases, deaths as restrictions loosen

“One of the issues that we're having with the antibody tests is the FDA has not properly regulated the antibody tests. So there are a lot of antibody tests that may tell you that you've been exposed, but they may be wrong,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor of internal medicine at USF Health in Tampa.

Teng said there are about 100 different companies making tests but not all of them are good quality. He said roughly 12 companies have FDA-approved antibody tests for emergency use.

MORE: Florida's long-term care facilities, hardest hit by COVID-19, to get mobile lab and more PPE

The FDA said Monday those companies must submit data showing their tests’ accuracy in the next 10 days.

“If we are getting some of those tests I think we can have a little bit better confidence in the results of the tests,” said Teng.

Preliminary antibody testing results in New York City show 1 in 5 people may have had COVID-19. DeSantis said Florida will likely start its own antibody study to see how the virus spread within the state.

Even with results from a quality test showing the existence of antibodies or not, doctors said it’s important to keep following good hygiene and social distancing.

“It's all about getting the right information to make informed choices about what you're going to do in the future,” said Teng.

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 Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


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