Coronavirus antibody testing has begun in Charlotte County with preliminary results showing 2.34% positive, a May 29 report from the Florida Department of Health revealed.

Charlotte County Health Chief Joe Pepe told commissioners Tuesday that the testing had begun statewide. For Charlotte County, he said, hospitals were performing these tests. It is not yet available at the open testing sites.

In other coronavirus updates, Pepe said new cases of active infection in Charlotte County now average about 4-7 a day, which is half of what it was a month ago. Some 45% of the 461 documented cases in Charlotte County are related to long term care facilities, compared to 16% statewide.

Pepe attributes this in part to the county’s high average age and to 100% testing of staff and residents at these facilities. The testing was undertaken early, he said, to keep the virus from jumping out into the community with the health care workers. As a result, he said, community spread has been limited. Several facilities have eliminated the virus on site. Others have developed enough expertise to become specialized facilities taking in new coronavirus patients.

The state has assigned six epidemiologists to work just in Charlotte County on contact tracing and research analysis, Pepe said.

Pepe is also the head of health in the rural Hendry County, where he told commissioners that coronavirus has exploded. In one migrant farmworker camp there, 118 tested positive for the infection. The state is now focused on these workers in the center of the state, before they head off to another state to pick the next crop.

Charlotte County does not have these camps, Pepe said.

The Charlotte County antibody report shows that 869 people had been tested as of May 29. Of those, 21 were positive. Statewide, 123,552 have been tested with 5,474 positive or 4.43%.

Pepe did not describe the sample method used at area hospitals, however the Miami Herald reported earlier this week that hospitals are using the tests for health care workers and first responders.

Antibody tests are designed to determine whether someone has been exposed to a virus, not whether they are currently infected. The standard test looks for the virus’ genetic material in your system, according to Medical News Today. That says you are a carrier. The antibody test suggests you were a carrier.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned that the antibody tests may not be highly accurate, although companies selling the tests dispute this.

Experts at the World Health Organization have warned that no one knows whether a positive antibody test means you are immune, and therefore, protected or non-infectious.

Epidemiologists are using antibody testing to estimate how widespread the virus may be. Large cities such as Miami and New York have been conducting random sample testing using things like electric utility accounts to select people for testing. Miami’s preliminary results came in at 6%, but the study is being redone with a new test after the accuracy of the first test was called into question.

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