Erie County ramping up COVID antibody testing

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – As of May 16th, 26,018 Erie County residents had been tested for coronavirus antibodies. Over the next several months, county officials plan on testing another 100,000.

People who are positive for such a test were exposed to the virus, and have developed those antibodies. Those generally show up about three weeks after a person becomes symptomatic.

On Thursday, Zoe Redmond of Buffalo was tested on the city’s East Side.

“All different people are coming to see whether they had it or not,” she commented.

Statistics provided by Erie County officials show the rate of residents testing positive for antibodies has been pretty consistent through the month of May thus far: 7.5 percent. That brings the overall rate to 7.7 percent.

“On the positive side that means for the most part that we’ve been successful with our social distancing strategies,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County’s health commissioner.

“Then there’s the bad side of it,” she said. “If we think that these antibodies could be protective at all, it means we have a long way to go before we develop herd immunity in the community.”

To date, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that having COVID antibodies protects you from future infection, according to health officials. But doctors say there is still value in knowing whether an individual has been exposed.

“Time will tell,” said Burstein. “We’re testing more people. We’ll be able to follow it.”

Beginning this week, for three days a week, Erie County will be holding antibody testing clinics, free of charge to those being tested. That’s how they plan to test an additional 100,000 people.

Appointments for antibody testing through Erie County are already booked through May, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Wednesday.

“We’re trying to keep the scheduling just one to two weeks out,” Burstein said. “However, when we return from our Memorial Day holiday next week, we will open up more slots for additional clinics throughout the county.”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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