Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners, is now offering Covid-19 antibody testing to our patients. This testing provides quick and reliable results which are crucial to understanding how the virus has spread and will be critical to fully opening up our economy.
What does this mean for you? Your questions answered here.
Below, Dr. Peter Mercurio, MD, President of Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners, Nancy Beran, MD, MS, Chief Medical Officer, Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners, and Dr. Dwayne Breining, Executive Director of Northwell Health Labs, explain what you need to know about Covid-19 antibody testing and what it means for our local Westchester community.
If I want an antibody test, how do I get one?
You can call your Westchester Health doctor and schedule an appointment to be seen, or request that your doctor order Covid-19 antibody testing for you and then set up an appointment for the blood draw at the office location. If you need a referral to a Westchester Health practice, please call 914-232-1919.
Where will testing happen?
We are performing antibody testing at all of our primary care offices. We are taking precautions to keep all patients safe. We require everyone to wear masks, schedule an appointment, and answer screening questions.
How much does the test cost? Is it covered by insurance? Do I need a prescription?
Yes, antibody testing is covered by insurance. In fact, your insurance company is mandated to cover the cost, which is about $65. Whether you need to pay a copay depends on your individual insurance. Antibody testing does require a prescription or an order from a physician or advanced practice provider.
What’s the difference between Covid-19 diagnostic (PCR) testing and serology (antibody) testing?
Covid-19 diagnostic testing will reveal if you currently have Covid-19 virus particles in your body at the time the test is performed. The antibody test determines if you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus at some point. Many people now believe they had the virus early on when there was limited testing available, so they were never tested.
What is the test like?
The antibody test is a blood test (a regular blood draw) which identifies antibodies specific to Covid-19. If you have the antibodies, you’ve been exposed to the virus. Note: Some people have tested positive and have never felt sick, while others who thought they had the virus have tested negative. Either way, it’s still important to get tested.
How accurate is the test?
At Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners, we utilize the Northwell Core Lab which has put the antibody test through extensive validation in the laboratory to ensure accuracy. Our most important concern was that this test was specifically looking for antibodies for the Covid-19 infection, rather than for the annual coronavirus. Results were over 90% accurate, which is as good as it gets.
If someone tested positive for Covid-19, should they get tested for antibodies?
Yes. Some people who have a virus never develop antibodies. With Covid-19, it’s very important for us, and for you, to know how many people have been exposed to the virus and have developed antibodies for it. The best way to confirm that you have antibodies is by getting tested.
Should someone donate their plasma if they test positive for antibodies?
Yes. There’s actually a treatment for Covid-19 called convalescent plasma treatment. Scientists are currently doing research into how Covid-19 antibodies can help patients who are sick with the virus now.
If you are interested in donating plasma, you can register at the Feinstein Institutes’ Convalescent Coronavirus Patient Registry. You will then be referred for plasma collection at a New York Blood Center site, and you will also be given the opportunity to participate in future Covid-19 research projects.
How long does it take to get the results from antibody testing?
It could take up to four or five days. So far, we’re getting results within a day or two.
If I have covid antibodies, does that mean I can go back to “normal” life?
No. Even if you believe you’re immune because you’ve tested positive for antibodies, disease experts do not yet know how long that immunity will last. Whether you’re positive or negative for antibodies, it’s important to continue practicing social distancing, hand hygiene, and proper personal protective measures such as masks. We urge you to keep following the CDC guidelines regarding the coronavirus even if you have a positive antibody test. You can still pass on the virus to loved ones and others if it is on your clothing or your hands.
The good news? New cases of Covid-19 are decreasing, not because of warmer weather but because of the preventative measures we’ve put in place that people are following. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that everyone continues to follow these precautions so that we can prevent a resurgence of the disease.
How does the presence of antibodies relate to immunity?
Based on healthcare experts’ experience with all other coronaviruses, it seems that prior infection does provide some level of immunity, but they don’t know the exact level or duration. One thing an antibody test does provide is information on the prevalence of the disease in certain communities. For example, approximately 45,000 Northwell Health staff members have gone through COVID-19 antibody testing, and what we’re finding is that rates of infection among healthcare workers are no higher than in the general population. This tells us that the precautions we’re taking are working, and that our Westchester Health offices are safe places for patients to visit and safe places for our staff to work.
Ultimately, as more and more people are tested for Covid-19 antibodies, we will be able to determine more clearly the relationship between antibodies and coronavirus immunity. And that will benefit all of us.
By Westchester Health, a member of Northwell Health Physician Partners