Joe Powers Insitu Photography
More than 200 essential workers in Sterling Heights were able to access free COVID-19 serology testing for antibodies this week at the city’s Community Center. The city partnered with Wayne State Physician’s Group and Access Community Health and Research Center on Wednesday to provide tests for essential employees, such as first responders.
According to city officials, the serology tests determine if an employee has been infected by the COVID-19 virus at any time and results return within two to three days. A positive test indicates a person was infected with the virus, whether or not they experienced any symptoms, and that their body has developed antibodies for the virus.
“Testing and tracing are the lynch pins for allowing our community to re-open our economy safely,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor.
During the pandemic employees from city departments, including the police and fire departments, Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation and Facilities Maintenance, have continued to provide essential services. City officials hope that antigen testing for employees will help identify how many may have contracted the virus, even if they were unaware. Those who test positive for the COVID-19 antigen may have developed some immunity to the virus, allowing them to safely continue providing essential services as well as potentially donate blood or plasma should it be needed for future outbreaks.
Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said so far 19 police and fire employees have required standard COVID-19 diagnostic tests due to developing symptoms but only three tested positive, and all have fully recovered and are back at work.
“Many groups now being tested for the antigen are finding high percentages of individuals who had contracted the virus but did not become symptomatic,” said Martin. “This antigen testing can help us identify employees within our ranks who may have developed some immunity to the disease and assess employees who are still at higher risk for contracting the virus."
In addition to testing for essential employees, the city is ramping up efforts to test every employee at its on-site Care Here medical facility through LabCorp. Currently LabCorp can perform 50,000 tests per day and complete them within one to three days from the time of pickup. The company is preparing to make tests more broadly available over the coming weeks, and by mid-May, expect to be able to perform several hundred thousand tests per week as more tests and testing platforms receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization.
“We are immensely grateful to our partners at Wayne State, Access Community Health and Care Here for their unwavering efforts to help us get the testing required to safely open per CDC protocols," said Taylor.