Parma firefighters set to volunteer for antibody testing to help in fight against COVID-19

Posted at 10:50 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 23:21:23-04

PARMA, Ohio — The fear is still there, but some first responders have somewhat mastered coping with that fear of COVID-19.

“You push it back so that you can maintain your mission,” Parma firefighter and department spokesperson T.J. Martin said.

But the fear of unknowingly carrying the virus is hard to ignore. Martin says no one on his team has tested positive, but it would be comforting to know for sure.

“I’m pretty confident that when we do get tested a lot of first responders throughout the country are going to come back as testing positive for COVID-19,” he said. “You don’t know if you’re carrying that virus to other members of your family or other members of your department family or possibly to the community at large.”

With testing still limited across the state, Dr. Christine Schmotzer, University Hospitals’ Chief of the Division of Clinical Pathology, says antibody testing will help determine if someone was ever infected with COVID-19 and could help confirm if they were asymptomatic.

“There’s a certain set of people, percentage of the population that even though they have the disease that typical test can be negative,” Schmotzer said.

Schmotzer’s team is currently fine tuning a study to test 10,000 frontline workers, including the Parma Fire Department. Martin says they received a letter asking for volunteers. The goal is to better understand the spread of the virus, but to also determine if immunity against the disease exists. The study is expected to start soon.

“What we still don’t know is whether having an antibody gives any indication of whether you are immune or protected from getting that disease again,” Schmotzer. “There’s still are studies going on to evaluate that both can you get reinfected in the short term so within a matter of days or weeks or months and long term so next year years after that so.”

While antibody testing is ramping up nationwide, Dr. Schmotzer is encouraging the general public not to test out of curiosity. She says testing large numbers of those who are not likely infected with coronavirus could exploit the antibody test and lead to false positive results.

In addition, the results won’t change the importance of social distancing and wearing protective equipment.

Schmotzer tells News 5 there’s no concern surrounding the accessibility of that antibody testing, they can’t guarantee there won’t be any shortages.

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