The city of Mobile has received 2,000 COVID-19 rapid serum tests designed to detect disease antibodies, but is still waiting on the more reliable swab tests.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the tests would be administered by University Hospital at the city’s drive-through testing site at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Stimpson was also hopeful swab tests would be available by the middle of next week.
“There is a lot of collaboration between the city and the hospitals,” Stimpson said. “We are trying to provide a service to the hospitals so they can better serve patients.”
The blood tests, while not as definitive as the swab tests, will help the city begin to determine the community’s “disease burden” and how it might impact it going forward, University Hospital’s Dr. Michael Chang said.
“It will give us an idea of the disease burden in the community and give us more information related to the capacity of hospitals in this area,” he said. “We can then adjust community activities to help change the disease burden.”
The difference between the tests currently available to the city and the swab tests is the blood tests detect antibodies, or a body’s defense against the virus. The virus can be in a patient’s body before it can mount a defense, Infirmary Health’s Dr. Mike O’Dowd said.
“You can have the virus and your body may not have mounted a defense,” he said. “The nasal test is what we need.”
There are 517 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama out of 4,082 tests.There has been one reported death in the state, and Mobile County has 18 confirmed cases and no reported deaths.
When asked if he thought the city was doing enough to help quash the infection rate, Stimpson said he believed so, but added he has thought about whether he’ll be on the “right side of history” when it comes to not yet calling for a shelter-in-place order.
“Absolutely, you think of things like that,” he said. “Based on the information we have we feel we’ve made the right decision. If the information changes we’ll make changes too.”
Stimpson also cautioned against putting out information about positive cases without also announcing how many patients have been tested.
“The information may be a misrepresentation,” he said.
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