Delaware using rapid test kits for select groups

With its first shipment of rapid tests for COVID-19, the state Division of Public Health this weekend ran a trial drive-through to test 10 first responders and healthcare providers who had medium to high risk exposure to the coronavirus through their work. All 10 responders tested negative and were able to return to work, officials said. (Submitted photo)

SMYRNA — Thousands of rapid test kits for COVID-19 arrived in Delaware and the state is earmarking them for those on the frontlines.

The Division of Public Health received 5,000 rapid test kits late last week, which were put to use during a trial-run drive-thru over the weekend.

DPH intends to use the kits to test health care workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities where outbreaks are suspected, according to a DPH release.

The trial drive-thru tested 10 first responders and health care providers who were asymptomatic, but had come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, DPH said in a release.

The first responders, who have been under quarantine, remained in their cars. The test is completed using a fingerstick, rather than a nasal swab COVID-19 test, said Jen Brestel, a spokeswoman for the Division of Health and Social Services.

“Each test was performed under the direct supervision of a multidisciplinary team of DPH physicians, and each case carefully reviewed prior to performing and interpreting tests,” she said in an email.

Since the first run of tests, Ms. Brestel said DPH has not done any additional drive-thrus. All 10 of the first responders tested negative and were cleared to return to work, officials said.

DPH is still determining parameters for future testing with the kits, and disseminating the tests between counties, Ms. Brestel said. Additional orders for tests have been placed, she added.

“Validation is still in process before release,” she said. “DPH is working closely with healthcare partners and industry to ensure test reliability and accuracy prior to release.”

The results can be found in five to 15 minutes, and don’t need to be sent to a lab for processing, unlike the nasal swab test.

Ms. Brestel said the blood sample test “detects antibodies, whereas the nasal swab detects viral genetic material.”

“Whereas (the) PCR swab looks directly for the virus, (the) rapid antibody test uses the body’s immune response as a surrogate to detect the possibility of infection,” she continued.

DPH noted the rapid test does not replace the nasal swab tests, “but can complement them with the right application.”

Both the rapid test and the nasal swab tests can have false negatives, however, and Ms. Brestel said it’s important to keep that in mind as people test negative.

“Clinical judgment is also needed for negative results based on presenting symptoms, onset of symptoms and epidemiological risk, and may warrant additional testing (PCR),” she said. “This should be the approach to interpret any test.”

The test kits are from Pinnacle BioLabs, a Nashville-based company, according to a DPH release.

According to the lab’s website, the tests have not been reviewed by the FDA, and “negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who have been in contact with the virus.”

The lab recommends follow-up testing to completely rule out infection.

“Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection or to inform infection status,” the website reads.

It also notes that positive results could appear if an individual has “past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains, such as coronavirus HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E.”

Delaware is one of the first states to conduct this testing for first responders and health care providers, officials said. DPH hopes to expand rapid testing access in the future.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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