ODESSA, Texas — As our communities craft a plan to get our economies back up and running, it’s important for leaders to understand the prevalence of the virus in our community – both infected and recovered cases.
The first piece of that was to bring more accessible testing through a drive-thru site. That opened to the public on April 27th. Ector County Judge Debi Hays says they’re able to process up to 20 tests an hour.
The focus has turned to antibody testing.
Ector County is one of the first counties in the state to establish an antibody testing program for its first responders.
The test is taken through a blood sample that will detect IGG antibodies.
The county will convert Barn C from a drive-thru test site into an antibody testing site starting May 11 through May 15. Their target group for this round of testing are first responders. NewsWest 9 got an exclusive look at the process as the first group of responders were tested.
“They’re still going out when everyone else is quarantined at home. They’re answering police calls, medical calls for service,” Jason Cooper, Assistant Medical Director of Odessa Fire and Rescue said.
Ector County and the City of Odessa are investing to get all first responders, across all local agencies, and other frontline workers tested for COVID-19 antibodies.
“We felt that this was a good group to test up front and initially to determine just how exposed they may have been,” Cooper said. “It helps us gather this data in an organized fashion to push up to the health department and our community leaders so they can get an idea of the prevalence in our community.”
From there, city and county leaders can use the data to make important decisions that impact us all.
“It’s just one tool, it doesn’t answer all of the questions, but it is one more tool in our assessment of where we are in our community. If we have a really low prevalence, that would imply that our area hasn’t really seen a lot of COVID-19. Conversely, if numbers come back higher, it would imply that we’ve already seen quite a bit of it,” Cooper said. “Either way, that is valuable data that lets our leaders know where we’re at and how our community is being affected by COVID-19.”
Big picture, it’s one step towards moving on and moving past COVID-19. The testing isn’t required, though all first responders in Ector County are highly encouraged to get tested. The test comes at no charge to first responders, the city and county are covering the cost.
Any first responder wishing to get tested, should work with their agency to set an appointment time. Results are expected to come back in a few days.
Once results are returned to each first responder, agency administration will have access to individual test results. Aggregate test results will be passed on to the health department for statisticians to interpret prevalence.