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Atrium Health ramps up antibody testing

A local hospital’s groundbreaking plan is meant to make reopening the local economy as safe as possible.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A local hospital’s groundbreaking plan is meant to make reopening the local economy as safe as possible.

Atrium Health will be using antibody testing to help businesses determine who has already recovered from the coronavirus. It’s important information for companies as they assess different risks in the workplace.

Atrium Health says it’s one of the only hospitals in the country with an in-house lab, which means results are typically available within 24 hours, instead of several days.

As North Carolina begins reopening for business, a key question becomes, who is potentially immune to COVI-19?  Now, Atrium Health is getting tests that could answer that.

“We are anticipating and preparing for up to 2,000 [tests] a day right now,” says Dr. Scott Rissmiller, executive vice president of Atrium Health.

Unlike a diagnostic test which checks for active infection, Atrium’s antibody testing gives results about whether someone has had the virus in the past.

“The belief or the hope is that means you are immune for a period of time at least to where you will not get re-infected and you will be able to return to the work environment,” said Dr. Rissmiller.

Dr. Rissmiller says studies are underway to determine the duration of immunity after someone recovers from the virus.  However, he says no matter what the antibody test results are, current safety guidelines will remain key.

“A positive antibody test does not mean that you do not have to do the things we know work such as washing your hands, and social distancing the six feet away from people,” said Dr. Rissmiller.

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Atrium Health will begin pilot testing on its employees next week and then expand testing at hundreds of locations in the weeks to come.  Dr. Rissmiller says Atrium’s in-house lab significantly speeds up getting test results.

“We can get the results back within 24 hours, often even much shorter than that, whereas if you send it to an outside lab it can take a week or so,” said Dr. Rissmiller.

Dr. Rissmiller says Atrium Health can ramp up the amount of testing if there is a greater need.

Companies and organizations interested in learning more about Atrium Health’s innovative COVID-Safe for Employers initiative can email the team at COVID19rtw@atriumhealth.org.

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