UCHealth is now offering COVID-19 testing and antibody tests for anyone in Colorado. The COVID-19 PCR test (nasal swab) can determine if someone is currently sick with the novel coronavirus and is appropriate for someone who has symptoms of the virus. The antibody test (blood draw) can determine whether someone has been exposed to or been sickened from the virus in the past.
With many patients recovering from COVID-19 and leaving hospitals, many people in Colorado are wondering if they, too, may have been exposed and have antibodies but didn’t have symptoms.
Antibodies are molecules in your body that react to a foreign substance. If you get infected with a virus or bacteria, your body produces antibodies to fight that infection, and those antibodies may still be present years after an infection.
“Many people have been interested in getting antibody tested because they want to know if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or they want to know if they are possibly immune to COVID-19. Unfortunately, for now, the only thing we can tell you is that if you have antibodies, you have been exposed to COVID-19. We cannot tell you yet whether you are immune to it,” said UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer Richard Zane, M.D., who is also the professor and chair of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The COVID-19 PCR test (nasal swab) and antibody test (blood draw) are available in two ways: Any UCHealth provider can order the tests for their patients, or patients may select and schedule the tests through My Health Connection. For anyone who isn’t a current UCHealth patient, he or she can create an account through My Health Connection and schedule testing. UCHealth is charging $100 for the COVID-19 antibody test and $85 for the PCR (nasal swab) test. While most health insurance plans will cover the cost of testing, patients are encouraged to check with their insurance company for coverage details.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that many antibody tests are not accurate and have not been approved by the FDA. The Administration recently announced that 29 antibody tests would be removed from its notification list and should not be distributed. The antibody tests that UCHealth now provides have been evaluated by the FDA and far exceed the agency’s requirements for accuracy and specificity. These are among the few antibody tests authorized by the FDA, and they are among the most accurate being offered in the nation. The test UCHealth is offering is >98% specific meaning that there are fewer than 1 in 1,000 errors.
“Regardless of whether you have antibodies or not, you should not change your behavior. You should still physically distance from others, wear a mask if appropriate and wash your hands meticulously and often. It’s very important that you do not change your behaviors because we don’t know if the presence of antibodies will prevent you from potentially getting sick from COVID-19 again,” said Zane.
UCHealth has already provided more than 34,000 COVID-19 PCR tests for patients throughout the state and will now allow patients to choose to be tested if they would like.
“Many businesses are asking their employees to be tested prior to returning to work or anytime someone has symptoms of the coronavirus. Early detection may help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we’re here to help employers reopen safely,” said Lori Japp, PA-C, UCHealth vice president of urgent care.