October 20, 2021

Got antibodies? Still wear a mask

Health officials say no evidence you can’t be reinfected

Health officials caution that even if you test positive for antibodies of the coronavirus, you should continue following social distancing, hand washing and mask guidelines.

“There is not sufficient evidence to indicate that having antibodies provides protection from another infection — it might or it might not,” said Lisa Perfetti, the interim director for the Cortland County Health Department. “The guidance for hand hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing remains for everyone.”

Perfetti said some local providers have done antibody testing in the county, but only sporadically.

“We have received a total of 808 results; 794 have been negative,” she said.

She said of the 14 positive cases of antibodies, six of them were from people who had previously tested positive for the virus.

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center is doing antibody testing but only when it is ordered by a patient’s physician, said Dr. J. Michael Scalzone, the chief quality officer for Guthrie.

“Guthrie continues to follow the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations for antibody testing,” he said. “It is very important to recognize that antibody testing is not used for diagnosing an acute infection, which is done by the PCR (polymerase chain reaction or nasal swab) test. The antibody test is used to help public health authorities understand the history of coronavirus infection in the population, and how many individuals had previously been exposed. There are rare situations where a physician might find serologic testing useful in a particular patient.”

The Red Cross began testing and notifying anyone who donates blood, platelets or plasma if they test positive for antibodies on June 15, said Katie Potter, the external communications manager for the organization.

“The Red Cross hopes testing for COVID-19 antibodies will provide our valued donors insight — into whether they may have been exposed to this coronavirus,” she said in an emailed statement. “We recognize that individuals and public health organizations desire more information about COVID-19, and as an organization dedicated to helping others, the Red Cross is fortunate to be able to step up to help during this pandemic.”

She said donors can get their results in seven to 10 days through the donor app or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

Perfetti said the focus of the county Health Department remains continuing to identify any positive cases and “close contacts to isolate and quarantine them to prevent further spread as well as educating the community about the importance of hand hygiene, mask wearing, staying home when ill and social distancing.”