Chester County to Initiate COVID-19 Antibody Testing for Essential Service Individuals

State Public Health Laboratory in Exton Tests for COVID-19; Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologists Karen Zimmerman, prepares a master mix for PCR inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories.

WEST CHESTER, PA — The Chester County Commissioners and County health and emergency services officials announced today the County’s plan to undertake antibody testing of priority individuals who are currently performing essential functions in the fight against COVID-19.

The pin-prick blood test to determine the presence of antibodies will help Chester County to address workforce prioritization with patient care, staff shortages and crisis care management.

Chester County is the first in the Commonwealth to undertake such a test.

Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz announced the plan for antibody testing at the conclusion of today’s COVID-19 press briefing.

“We have just received a shipment of 10,000 blood test kits and are expecting a second shipment of 10,000 more next week.  These kits will be administered to priority individuals – emergency responders, healthcare workers and staff at long-term care facilities throughout Chester County, to determine those who have developed coronavirus antibodies, with or without symptoms,” said Moskowitz.

In consultation with County Health Director Jeanne Casner and Director of Emergency Services, Mike Murphy, the Commissioners and senior staff identified this “first tier” of people to be tested.

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In addition, staff and inmates at Chester County Prison will be tested to help determine work prioritization for prison staff, as well as identify a better system to group inmates that will help better prevent further spread of the virus within the prison.

“This test is supplemental to the coronavirus testing that we have already been doing and will continue to do,” said Jeanne Casner, Chester County Health Department Director. “It is NOT a replacement test for confirming cases.

“We are undertaking the antibody blood test as another weapon in the fight to control coronavirus.  Knowledge of who has developed antibodies to the virus can help us tremendously in our strategy to respond to emergencies, treat patients and care for the elderly,” added Casner.

Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell provided assurance that administration of the antibody test will not require the use of personal protection equipment required by first responders, healthcare workers and staff at long-term care facilities. “We are ensuring PPE needed for testing will not be diverting PPE from those who need it now, around the clock,” he said.

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Chester County purchased the antibody test kits from Advaite, a Chester County-based company.  Senator Andy Dinniman connected the County with Advaite as a potential test supplier. Chester County companies produce all key elements of the test.   Test results are available within 15 minutes.

The first level priority testing will begin this week, beginning with the Prison, Pocopson Home, and Chester County Youth Center.  Hospitals and long-term care facilities will administer the test, supplied by the County, themselves.  The County’s health and emergency services officials are currently refining a system of testing for first responders, which will also begin this week.

Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline said, “As we review the results of the antibody blood tests, we will work with first responders, hospitals and long-term care facilities to determine how the results can best be used to manage this crisis.  It is our intention to continue sourcing more of the blood test kits.  The more we have, the more people we can test to get a fuller picture of how many have had COVID-19 in Chester County, either knowingly or unknowingly.”

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At today’s press briefing, Chester County noted additional positive cases and one additional death, bringing the total number of positive cases in the county to 304, and three deaths of Chester County residents.

Chester County’s comprehensive source for all information relating to coronavirus, including the dashboard that provides geographic and demographic information on all reported cases in the county, can be found at chesco.org/coronavirus.

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