Chicago COVID-19 antibody test site opens in Lincoln Park

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New COVID-19 antibody testing is available to the public at a Chicago facility starting Wednesday morning.

The results, if accurate, could play an important role in resuming normal life.

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There was a steady stream of cars all day at the Innovative Express Care medical facility in Lincoln Park. Hundreds of testing slots are filled for the next few days. The testing is being done at a tent on the corner of Ashland and Fullerton avenues.

The group providing the test says it's available to anyone that is feeling well and has not had any symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days. People are anxious for a test that will tell them if they have been exposed to the virus.

"What the test shows you is that you have encountered the virus before, so theoretically you will not mount a huge response if you get the virus again," said Dr. Rahul Khare, ER doctor and CEO of Innovative Express Care.

But Khare and others caution that just because you have the antibodies for COVID-19 doesn't necessarily mean you're immune to the virus.

"This is a novel virus," Khare said. "It's only been around for a few months. We have to understand how the antibodies react."

Dr. Jochen Reiser, chairman of medicine at Rush University Medical Center, said there's still much to learn about the new coronavirus.

"Even if one has antibodies, it doesn't necessarily mean that these antibodies are protective," Reiser said. "We need to develop a test that we can check whether these antibodies have the ability to keep the virus from infecting cells."

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"It also helps us understand what we are trying to achieve which is herd immunity in the future," Khare said. "The safest way for herd immunity is to vaccinate as many patients as we can and we don't have that yet and we are going to get a better grasp of how many patients actually have had COVID-19 virus."

The Lincoln Park testing site has a protocol. You must call ahead for an appointment, then drive up and have your temperature checked. You're screened for signs you may have COVID-19.

If you're not currently sick and haven't been for two weeks, you get a blood test that takes abou three minutes.

Samples collected will be analyzed and results will be ready in three to five days. Insurance is accepted, or you can pay $250 out of pocket.

The first patients began arriving before 9 a.m.

Joan Dahlquist came in with her son.

"I am hoping to get out of this experience that, yes, we've had it, we are now immune like every other virus and we can do more things, be helpful to people, visit our elderly parents," she said.

Some public health officials, infectious disease experts and laboratory owners have been sounding the alarm about the lax oversight.

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They said the tests need to meet standards and prove that they actually work.

In response to the growing outcry the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced government scientists will begin reviewing data on some of the antibody tests to see if they actually work.

Health experts say the COVID19 antibody test will provide valuable data about the virus and how it develops in the body, although some experts remain concerned about inaccurate results.

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And medics can't yet answer if the antibody tests will yield a solution to the pandemic.

"We don't have the ready shelf solution right now that can give you the peace of mind that is absolute," Reiser said. "You don't have to yet, you don't have to pregnancy test for COVID yet."

Widespread testing is something that national health officials said remains necessary to reopen the country.

Innovative Express Care is located at 2400 N. Ashland Avenue.

Appointments are required and for information on scheduling an appointment, visit nextpatient.co/p/966/appointments.

More information about antibody testing can be found by clicking here.
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