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Tuesday, April 28 2020

SHRM article below states EEOC states that employers can test for COVID-19.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance on April 23 on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and coronavirus, explaining that employers may screen employees for COVID-19. Any mandatory medical test must be job-related and consistent with business necessity, the EEOC explained.

"Applying this standard to the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may take steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others," the agency stated. Consequently, an employer may administer COVID-19 testing to employees before they enter the workplace.

The tests should be accurate and reliable, the agency added, noting that employers should review guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and check updates.

"Employers may wish to consider the incidence of false positives or false negatives with a particular test," the EEOC added. "Note that accurate testing only reveals if the virus is currently present; a negative test does not mean the employee will not acquire the virus later."

The EEOC stated that employers still should require that employees engage in social distancing and regular handwashing to the greatest extent possible.

Even before the April 23 update, Chai Feldblum and Sharon Masling, attorneys with Morgan Lewis in Washington, D.C., had said that testing an employee would follow the same logic as taking an employee's temperature.

Questions about testing are "increasingly on the minds of employers," said Christopher Durham, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia. 

Considerations for Testing

Durham said some EEO parameters employers should have in mind when considering whether to screen employees for COVID-19 are:

  • Just as with temperature screening, screening/testing for COVID-19 must be conducted on a nondiscriminatory basis, which likely means that all employees entering the worksite must be tested.
  • Assuming the results of such testing are retained, they need to be retained as confidential medical records according to the ADA's requirements.
  • Any screening, test or inquiry that is broader than necessary to address the potential direct threat is prohibited.
  • Although unlikely, it is possible that an employee could have a medical condition that could require the employer to determine whether it can provide the employee with an accommodation, such as making available an alternative testing method to the (likely nasal swab) method being used.
  • Employers will need to consider how to handle an employee's refusal to submit to a test. For example, the employer could bar access to the worksite for an employee who refuses to cooperate.

He said that other considerations for employers include:

  • Being aware that there may be an obligation under wage and hour laws to pay employees for time spent waiting to be tested, as well as time spent waiting for the results of the test, assuming the employee will not be admitted to the workplace until the employer has the results.
  • Requiring employees to consent in writing to the screening, including, but not limited to, acknowledging that the test is not a diagnostic test.
  • Exercising care in selecting a test to use, particularly in light of well-documented issues with test accuracy.
  • Determining when and under what conditions an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 will be able to return to the workplace. For example, is a subsequent negative test sufficient? Two subsequent negative tests?
  • Weighing the implications of a positive test result as it relates to addressing potential exposure in the workplace (e.g., if the employee was at work in the days leading up to the date of the positive test).

Diagnostic and Serology Testing

Diagnostic testing (for active COVID-19 infections) and serology testing (for antibodies to the virus) are a current focus of public health agencies and are undergoing rapid development and attempted deployment while a vaccine is in development, explained Jennifer Rubin, an attorney with Mintz in San Diego. Government regulators are also focused on contact tracing, which will be an important part of reopening the economy, she noted.

"It is too soon to tell whether diagnostic or serological testing will be mandated for all or nonessential employers, in part due to the lack of plentiful, reliable and accessible tests," she said.

"Most individuals currently lack access to diagnostic testing, and unlike diagnostic testing, existing scientific data has not proven the efficacy of serology testing," she cautioned.

"The EEOC might still be grappling with the more difficult issues around serology testing," Feldblum and Masling said, noting that the agency has not yet addressed the legality of using serology tests. 

Undue Hardship During a Pandemic

In an April 17 update to the same guidance, the EEOC clarified what constitutes an undue hardship preventing an employer from reasonably accommodating an individual with a disability in a pandemic. The agency stated that "it may be significantly more difficult in this pandemic to conduct a needs assessment or to acquire certain items, and delivery may be impacted, particularly for employees who may be telecommuting."

In addition, the EEOC said, "The sudden loss of some or all of an employer's income stream 

because of this pandemic is a relevant consideration. Also relevant is the amount of discretionary funds available at this time—when considering other expenses—and whether there is an expected date that current restrictions on an employer's operations will be lifted (or new restrictions will be added or substituted). These considerations do not mean that an employer can reject any accommodation that costs money; an employer must weigh the cost of an accommodation against its current budget while taking into account constraints created by this pandemic."

The factors impacting what constitutes an undue hardship are going to be motivated by a vastly different operational and financial reality for some businesses than was the case prior to the pandemic, said Linda Hollinshead, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia. 

For example, if an employee has a disability that prevents the employee from completing certain tasks, in a typical situation, the employer will look to see which other employees are available to pick up on those tasks on the employee's shift. In a pandemic, with fewer employees working on each shift in order to implement social distancing protocols, others may not be available to pick up those tasks, she noted.

"This does not mean that the employer does not have a duty to accommodate, it just means that the employer may not have an obligation to provide the requested accommodation," she said. 

Historically, it has been difficult for employers, especially large employers, to prove undue hardship as many accommodations require little expenditure when measured against an employer's overall revenues, said Mary Ruth Houston, an attorney with Shutts & Bowen in Orlando, Fla. "The new guidance suggests that current financial constraints can be taken into account. Nonetheless, the guidance also cautions that this does not mean that employers can simply reject any accommodation for perceived undue hardship."

David Fram, director of ADA services for the National Employment Law Institute in Golden, Colo., said, employers should be cautious about using undue hardship as a defense for not providing a reasonable accommodation, even in a pandemic. Once undue hardship is relied upon, a plaintiff can find out all the other places an employer spent its resources, which can leave an employer vulnerable in litigation. 

 

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 05:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 28 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-28-2020

COVID-19 cases have grown to over 1 Million.  Deaths now exceed  56,800 and Recovered continue to excel to over 139,000.

Screening is a key part to fighting the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.  Screening can help identify those with antibodies and isolate to flatten the growth curve:

     1.  Find those who are symptomatic and are spreading the virus

     2.  Identify those who are Asymptomatic and are spreading the virus.

     3.  Identifies when those who were infected are entering healthy stage and able to be re-intorduced into the workplace.

WSI offers COVID-19 Screening Kits.  Call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or WSI's COVID-19 Screening

 

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 04:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, April 26 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-26--2020

Active US Cases grow to over 960,000, Deaths have grown to over 54,200 and Recovered is growing quickly to 118,000.  The recovered continues to outpace the death growth.  This is the first time the recovered has doubled the death count.

City of Apopka will soon allow businesses to open who follow their Gold Star Standard program.  They have carefully  crafted a program using Center for Disease Control and the Federal Standards to keep the City of Apopka open and to protect its citizens.  The program includes 3 important standards to stop the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus:

1. PPE - Employees wearing Personal Protective Equiptment and other healthy initatives (Masks, handwashing, temperatures scans, etc...).    2. Screening - all employees will be screened for COVID-19.                                                                                                                                                              3. Tracing - Employers will keep track of those who were in their business.  This will allow immediate notification to those who were infected  and allow them to get isolated, treated and healthy quickly.

See Apopka Chief article 4-22-2020 for complete information on the City of Apopka's COVID-19 Gold Star Program.

WSI's COVID-19  Antibody Screening Kits allows employers to keep their workplace healthy by detecting the following affected by  COVID-19 when antibodies are present: 

 1.  Symptomatic employees who are infecting others.                                                                                                                                                                         2.  Asymptomatic employees who are infecting others.                                                                                                                                                                       3.  Previously COVID-19 infected employees who are now healthy and have antibodies indicating immunity.

For more information on WSI's COVID-19 Antibody Screening Kits COVID-19 Screening or 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com

 

 

 

Screening is an important part in 

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 04:54 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 24 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update 4-24-2020

US Active cases exceed 886,000, Deaths exceed 50,200 and Recovered cases exceed 85,900 and continue to grow.

Screening for COVID-19 Coronavirus, like handwashing and social distancing, is key to stopping the spread of the virus.  

How can WSI's Antibody testing assist employers*?

POCT Antibody Screening Kits Abilities:

  1. Provides screening that detect antibodies of those infected by COVID-19 Coronavirus that are symptomatic or not.
    1. Symptomatic
    2. Asymptomatic – experts predict up to 40% of those infected have no symptoms but, are spreading the virus.
  2. Provides screening that allows the healthy who are infected individual to be re-introduced in the workplace once they are healthy and have immunity.
  3. Provides security with employees and management that employer is concerned with health and safety of workplace and is addressing the issues of COVID-19 Coronavirus.

*POCT Antibody Screening Kits are Medical Professional Use only.  Must have a medical professional complete test.

For More information on WSI's COVID-19 Antibody Screening Kits, please call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Coronavirus Screening 

 

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 04:22 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 23 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-23-2020

Over 849,000 Active Cases, over 47,600 Deaths and over 84,000 have recovered.  Numbers are moving in the right direction.

Screening is an important part of the stopping the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.  Experts say up to 40% of those spreading the virus are Asymptomatic.  Screening will find the asymptomatic as well as the others spreading the virus and allow them to be isolated until they enter the immunity stage.  Once they find the individual has immunity they can be safely introduced to the workplace.

WSI offers Antibody testing.  Please call WSI today at 800-338-5510 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 04:51 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 22 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update 4-22-2020

Active United States Cases exceed 819,000, Deaths exceed 45,300 and Recovered has grown to over 82,900.

Screening, like Hand Washing and Social Distancing, is an important tool to help fight the spread of the Coronavirus.  WSI's Antibody screening kit can help detect those who are symptomatic as well as asymptomatic and have them isolate before they spread the Coronavirus to other unsuspecting individuals.

For more information call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Stay Safe!!

Posted by: AT 06:01 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 22 2020

We are in challenging times.  Drug testing businesses, like WorkPlace Screening Intelligence (WSI), are essential businesses and are serving those that require drug testing in these challenging times.  There have been some changes at some of our partner providers as they continue to serve during the Pandemic and continue to protect their employees as well as the public in the spread of COVID-19 Cornonavirus.

Effecitve immediately, all Quest Patient Service Centers will begin to thermoscan each individual as they enter the PSC.  They will also require that each individual wear a facecovering (mask, bandana, tee-shirt, etc...).  If the individual has a temperature of 100.3 or higher they will be asked to leave.  Also, if they don't have a face covering they will be asked to leave and return with a face covering.

Many people have questions about drug testing during the COVID-19.  Do I really have to test under these circumstances.  See below for what the DOT says:

What Does DOT Say About Random Drug Testing?

There have been no exemptions to the DOT random drug testing requirements.  The DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy Compliance (ODAPC) and all the DOT agencies have issued guidance on drug & alcohol testing.  Each of these guidance statements can be viewed using the links below:

Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy Compliance (ODAPC) Guidance

FMCSA COVID 19 Guidance

FTA and FRA - See DOT COVID-19 Guidance

All of the guidance issued is fairly similar.  The regulations for drug and alcohol testing are in effect.  The federal government continues to require drug testing of employees in certain safety sensitive industries such as transportation.  Here is a summary of the DOT guidance:

  • As a DOT regulated employer, you must comply with applicable DOT training and testing requirements
     
  • DOT recognizes that compliance may not be possible in certain areas due to the unavailability of program resources, you should make a reasonable effort to locate the necessary resources
  • As a best practice at this time, employers should consider mobile collection services for required testing if the fixed site collection facilities are not available
  • Additionally, employers who find it impossible to comply with any portion of the regulations must document the reasons why and always defer to the regulations themselves

Employers should not use the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to not get their random testing completed.  As this is the first month of the second quarter of the year, employers operating on quarterly random testing have until June 30th to complete selections provided for the 2nd quarter.  What is important is that you do not notify the employee of his or her random test until you are ready to send them for immediate testing.  The regulations require that upon notification of selection the employee reports immediately for testing.

Specific FMCSA guidance for the trucking and bus industries include the following: 

  • Random Testing, you are required by 49 CFR 382.305(k) to ensure that the dates for administering random alcohol and controlled substances tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year. DOT guidance further recommends that you perform random selections and tests at least quarterly
  • If, due to disruptions caused by the COVID 19 national emergency, you are unable to perform random selections and tests sufficient to meet the random testing rate for a given testing period in order to achieve the required 50% rate for drug testing, and 10% for alcohol testing, you should make up the tests by the end of the year. You should document in writing the specific reasons why you were unable to conduct tests on drivers randomly selected, and any actions taken to locate an alternative collection site or other testing resources
  • Pre-Employment Testing or Return to Duty Testing - If you are unable to conduct a pre employment or return to duty test controlled substances test, in accordance with 49 CFR 382.301(a), you cannot allow a prospective employee to perform DOT safety sensitive functions until you receive a negative test result, unless the exception in 49 CFR 382.301(b) applies 

So bottom line is that every effort should be made to complete required DOT drug and alcohol testing.  What circumstances would be appropriate to not complete testing?

  • Your business is closed, not operating
  • The selected employees are out of service due to illness, lay-off or furlough
  • There is no availability for specimen collections (this is not likely)

Using COVID-19 as an excuse for not complying with the regulations could lead to violations, fines and penalties. 

Posted by: AT 04:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 21 2020

City of Apopka introduces COVID-19 Screening for First Responders

WSI is very proud to be the supplier of COVID-19 to our hometown City of Apopka First Responders.  See YouTube Video as Chief Wylam and Mayor Nelson explain the process.

City of Apopka YouTube COVID-19 Video

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 08:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 20 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-20-2020

Active US Cases exceed 764,000, Deaths exceed 40,500 and Recovered are greater than 71,000.

COVID-19 Antibody testing is key to fighting the spread of Coronavirus.  WSI's COVID-19 Antibody test kit can help detect isolation candidates and those who are asymptomatic & spreading the coronavirus and helps indentify those who are healthy and ready to return to the workplace.

Call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com orhttp:// https://www.workplacescreening.com/covid_19_testing https://www.workplacescreening.com/covid_19_testing

Posted by: AT 07:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, April 19 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-19-2020

Active COVID-19  Cases has grown to over 738,900, Deaths grew to over 39,000 and Recovered grew to 68,200.

Screening is a key part to fighting the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.  Screening can identify those with current infection as well as those who have entered or entering the healthy stage with immunity and able to be reintroduced to the workplace safely.

WSI offers COVID-19 Antibody Testing.  Our COVID-19 kit  provides answers within 10 minutes.

For more information please call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 05:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, April 18 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-18-2020

Active Cases have grown to over 710,200 Active Cases, Deaths have grown to over 37,100 and Recovered Cases are over 63,500.

Screening, like hand washing and social distancing,  Our Antibody screening tool allows to find COVID-19 recent infection (if antibodies are present), and when the individual enters or is entering the healthy stage of immunity.

WSI offers COVID-19 Corona Virus Screening.  Great tool to screen for recent infection (if antibodies are present) and when the individual is healthy and ready to enter the public or workplace with immunity.

For more information call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Posted by: AT 05:06 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 17 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-17-2020

US Active Cases is over 678,200, Deaths are over 34,600 and Recovered Cases are over 57,800.  Recovered cases outpace the deaths as percentage of outcomes by 2 to 1 (67% to 33%).

Screening is an integral part of fighting the spread of COVID-19 virus.  

WSI offers antibody screening with POCT devices.  Tests can be read within 10 minutes.  Great test for those facing the public (First Responders, HealthCare and anyone else facing the public).  

For more informaiton on our COVID-19 Screening Kits call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening Info

 

Posted by: AT 06:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 17 2020

Our sitster company, Parent Drug Testing, has an incredible written by Licensed Mental Health Counselor about why your teen may begin to utilize drugs.  See Link for article  Nate Webster

Posted by: AT 06:02 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 16 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-16-2020

Active cases in the United States reaches over 644,000, Deats reach in excess of 28,500 and Recovered is growing quickly to over 48,700 cases.

Screening is an important part of fighting the spread of Coronvirus infection spread.  With antibody testing, you can tell when recent infection (if antibodies are present), when the patient enters or is in acute stage and when the patient enters or is in healthy or immunity stage.  

For more information call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Coronavirus Screening

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 07:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 14 2020

If you are concerned about your kids and drugs, our sister company Parent Drug Testing has a guest author writing about the three reasons kids try drugs.  Nate Webster, Mental Health Counselor, explains the 3 reasons kids try drugs.

See What the Experts Say from Parent Drug Testing

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 04:02 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, April 14 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-14-2020

Worldwide active cases almost top 2 Million.  United States Active Cases top 587,000, Deaths climb to more than 36,900 and recovered almost reaches, 37,000 cases.

Screening, like hand washing and social distancing, is an important part of fighting the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.  

WSI offers antibody screening for COVID-19 Coronavirus.  Call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 03:56 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 13 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update 4-13-2020

Active Cases in the USA exceed 560,000, Deaths surpass 22,000 and Recovered has grown to 32,634.

Screening is a key part in the fight against the infection growth of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.   Especially effective with detection, once antibodies begin to react to virus, and when it is time for the infected to be introduced back into the workplace as they show immunity to the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

For more information please call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Posted by: AT 07:17 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, April 12 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update 4-12-2020

US Active Cases over 533,000 active cases, over 20,500 cases, and over 30,500 have recovered from the COVID-19 Virus.

Screening is an integral part of stop the spread of Coronavirus as well as washing hands and social distancing.

WSI offers COVID-19 Antibody screening POCT kits.  For more information call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Coronavirus Screening

Posted by: AT 05:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, April 10 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-10-2020

Over 468,000 Active cases, Over 16,000 Deaths and Over 25,900 Recovered from the Coronavirus.

Screening is an integral part of the solution to stop the spread of the COVID-19 infection.  You can identify the Asymptomatic. follow the patient through convalescent period as well as when the patient becomes healthy and enters immunity.  The healthy are identified as candidates to return to the workplace and the public safely.  Identifying the Asymptomatic is important as some experts say as high as 40% of the individuals who have COVID-19 have no symptoms and are infecting others unknowingly.

For more information call 800-338-5515 or COVID-19 Screening Info

Posted by: AT 05:01 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 09 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-9-2020

Over 435,000 Active COVID-19 Case, over 14,700 Deaths and 22,891 Recovered.

Screening is a huge part of the solution to flatten the growth of the infection curve.  It will show when the individual first picks up antibodies, also as the virus is systemic and when the patient becomes healthier and has immunity.  Those who have immunity are eligible to return to the public and to the workplace.

WSI offers Antibody Testing.  Call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening Info

Posted by: AT 07:07 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, April 08 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update 4-8-2020

Over 400,000 active cases of Coronavirus, almost 13,000 deaths and thankfullly over 21,000 fully recovered.

Screening is a key part to managing the spread of the Coronavirus.  Our antibody test will let you know when antibodies are present, when subject is infectious and when they have immunity and can be re-introduced to the public and workplace.

Call 800-338-5515 for more information, info@workplacescreening.com or COVID Screening Info

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 07:25 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 06 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-6--2020

There afe over 336,000 active COVID-19 Coronavirus cases, over 9.620 deaths and good sign that almost 18,000 have recovered in the United States.

A key part of fighting the spread of COVID-19 infection is screening and identifying who is infectous.  Antibody testing can help the medical practioner finding those who are infectious and isolate those before they infect others.  Also helps medical professional as the individual who moves from Systemic to Healty and can prove immunity.  Once patient has immunity, they can have a passport to be introduced safely to the public and/or workplace.

For more information call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 06:17 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, April 05 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-5-2020

Over 311,000 Active Cases and over 8,400 Deaths.  Thankfully, the amount of those recovered from Coronavirus has outpaced deaths and stands at over 14,800.

We are learning more about the COVID-19 Coronavirus daily.  Today on Fox News a physician stated that one out of every four infected with Coronavirus COVID-19 have no symptoms and are still infecting others.

A  key part to battle COVID-19 Coronavirus infection growth curve is screening and identification for isolation of those infecting others.

For more informaiton on COVID-19 Coronavirus 3 Minute Screening Kits, please call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Screening Information

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 04:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, April 04 2020

Coronavirus Covid-19 Update 4-04-2020

There are 277,522 active cases in the US and 7,403 deaths.  12,283 are recovered from the COVID-19 Coronavirus

Screening and Detecting COVID-19 is key in helping to flatten the growth of infection of COVID-19 Coronavirus.  It is challening in these time due to reagent and swab shortages, to get a laboratory test.  WSI offers Antibody testing which will give you both an IGG and IGM positiive or negative which will help diagnose those that are infected and as they have immunity and able to safely return to the workplace.

Press here for more COVID-19 Screening information or call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com

Posted by: AT 05:31 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update 4-2-2020

There are over 216,000 active cases in the U.S.  5,137 deaths to date with steep growth over yesterday.  Encouraging news there is over 8,500 cases that are recovered from the Coronavirus.

For more information about COVID-19 Antibody testing call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Antibody Testing

Posted by: AT 06:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, April 02 2020

Great article from Science Magazine.  Explains how antibody testing works with  COVID-19 Antibody Testing

New blood tests for antibodies could show true scale of coronavirus pandemic

By Gretchen Vogel

How many COVID-19 cases have gone undetected? And are those who had mild cases of the disease—perhaps so mild they dismissed it as a cold or allergies—immune to new infections? If so, they could slow the spread of the burgeoning pandemic.

Answering those questions is crucial to managing the pandemic and forecasting its course. But the answers won’t come from the RNA-based diagnostic tests now being given by the tens of thousands. They look for the presence of viral genes in a nose or throat swab, a sign of an active infection. But scientists also need to test a person’s blood for antibodies to the new virus, known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Such tests can detect active infections, too, but more importantly, they can tell whether a person has been infected in the past because the body retains antibodies against pathogens it has already overcome.

Labs and companies around the world have raced to develop antibody tests, and a few have been used in small studies and received commercial approval, including several from China. But so far, large-scale data from such tests—for example showing what fraction of people in the hard-hit city of Wuhan, China, might now be immune—is still lacking or at least not public. Scientists hope that will soon change as more tests become available.

 

See all of our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

A new recipe could offer labs an alternative to waiting for or buying commercial tests. Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and his colleagues posted a preprint yesterday describing a SARS-CoV-2 antibody test they have developed, and directions for replicating it. It’s one of the first such detailed protocols to be widely distributed, and the procedure is simple enough, he says, that other labs could easily scale it up “to screen a few thousand people a day,” and quickly amass more data on the accuracy and specificity of the test. Together with increased availability of commercial tests, that means some important answers about immunity to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, may be available soon, he says.

To create the test, the researchers began by designing a slightly altered version of the “spike” protein on SARS-CoV-2’s outer coat. (The alterations made the protein more stable for use in the lab.) That protein helps the virus enter cells, and it is a key target in the immune reaction against the virus, as the body churns out antibodies that recognize the protein and tag the virus for destruction. They also isolated the short piece of the spike protein called the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which the virus uses to attach to cells it tries to invade. They then used cell lines to produce large quantities of the altered spike proteins and RBDs.

Those labmade molecules provided the basis for an ELISA test, in which antibodies in a sample of blood or plasma trigger a color change when they recognize a target protein—here an RBD or the spike protein. Initial tests of four blood samples from three confirmed COVID-19 patients and from 59 serum samples banked before the start of the outbreak showed that the test worked, as antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 bound to the test’s proteins. It showed positive results only for the COVID-19 patients and not for any of those controls.

The control blood samples came from people between the age of 20 and 70, many of whom had previously been infected with other viruses. Among them was a different coronavirus, NL63, which causes cold symptoms. Its spike protein uses the same receptor on human cells to infect them, so scientists had worried that antibodies to that virus might cross-react and cause false-positive tests. “Across the board, the controls look very negative,” Krammer says—which is good news.

The fact that antibodies to NL63 don’t also react to SARS-CoV-2 proteins is encouraging for another reason, he adds. Some viral diseases, such as dengue, can cause more serious symptoms if a person has been previously exposed to a related strain of the virus and already has partial immunity. Existing antibodies can react to the related invader and trigger a dangerous overreaction, a phenomenon known as an antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). Some researchers have suggested ADE might explain why the virus is more deadly in the elderly and less so in children, who have had less exposure to other coronaviruses.

Krammer says he and his colleagues are already using their test in their New York City hospital to better understand how quickly COVID-19 patients start to develop antibodies to the virus. In the future, it could also help identify recovered patients who could then donate their SARS-CoV-2 antibody-rich serum to help treat critically ill patients. Another key application, Krammer says, would be to identify people who have developed likely immunity to the virus. They might be able to treat patients safely or take on other front-line jobs during the pandemic.

Widespread antibody testing could also provide key data for efforts to model the course of the pandemic. Current predictions vary so widely, causing some scientists to question the need for severe containment methods such as lockdowns and social distancing. By indicating how much of the population is already immune because of mild infections, antibody data could offer a key to how fast the virus will continue to spread.

Such data could inform practical issues such as whether and how to reopen schools that have been closed. Relatively few cases have been diagnosed among children, but it isn’t clear whether that’s because they don’t get infected or because their infections are generally so mild that they go unnoticed. Testing children for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies should resolve that.

Longer term antibody tests will also help researchers understand how long immunity to the virus lasts, a key issue for any future vaccine. For other coronaviruses, Krammer notes, immunity after an infection is strong for several months, but then begins to wane. Doctors in Germany are now testing COVID-19 patients from the small cluster of cases in Bavaria in January. One month after infection, antibody levels remained high, says Clemens Wendtner, an infectious disease specialist at the Schwabing Clinic.

Krammer’s team is eager to test as many blood samples as possible, but as the outbreak takes hold in New York City, it is forcing work in his laboratory to slow down. He has told lab members to avoid commuting. “Everyone who isn’t within walking or biking distance is staying home.”

 

For more information on COVID-19 Antibody testing call 800-338-5515 or info@workplacescreening.com or COVID-19 Antibody Screening Tools

Posted by: PHIL DUBOIS AT 05:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email