Another critical element in the effort to combat COVID-19 is becoming available in Loudoun, with doctors’ offices ramping up testing to tell residents whether they have been exposed to the virus.
At MetroMed Urgent Care in Leesburg, Dr. Roshelle Beckwith has expanded her drive-up testing services to include the Quest Diagnostics Abbott test, which was developed by the Perkin Elmer company to detect antibodies triggered by the virus.
In the first two weeks since the test became available, the office administered approximately 400 tests, with about 40 coming back positive.
And, in this case, positive is the result patients want. It indicates they have been exposed to the virus and have antibodies that may allow them to ward off future infections. However, research continues to determine the extent to which antibodies will provide immunity in the future.
Director of Operatoins David Vaynman usually makes the call when the results come in.
“They’re happy. Then they know they have something to fight off the virus if it comes back around,” he said of passing along the news of positive test. “When I tell people they’re negative, they’re a little bit bummed.”
While many of the hastily developed antibody test available nationally have raised concerns about accuracy, Nurse Practitioner Lucille Tussey said the results they are seeing are matching up well with known cases, achieving a near 100 percent accuracy. The test uses a blood draw and serum-separating tubes that are sent to the lab. Results are available as early as the next day.
Beckwith said she and her team have worked to promote early intervention and that approach has paid off, with patients at her practice responding well to treatment. She also works in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s in Syracuse, NY, on weekends and has seen far sicker patients there, including some that didn’t go home.
“We try to treat them as early as possible,” Beckwith said. “We have 85-year-olds, 75-year-olds and they are surviving. They did have a bad pneumonia and everything, but they are all making it.”
She said her treatments for COVID-19 positive patients range from good food and vitamins for those showing no symptoms, to a Z-pak antibiotic treatment as more symptoms emerge. She even has used controversial hydroxychloroquine successfully to treat symptoms in younger patients with high fevers. She noted that another drug being used to treat the infection, Remdesivir, is not yet readily available and is an IV treatment.
“The key to that is early, early, early. I can’t emphasize enough, don’t wait three months or three weeks sitting at home and thinking it is going to go away,” Beckwith said.
At MetroMed, the testing is offered at the fee of a nurse visit—up to $35—with Quest billing up to $100 for the tests, although many insurance carriers have begun waiving co-pays for COVID-19 related testing.
MetroMed is located at 952 Edwards Ferry Road, in the Shenandoah Square shopping center next to the former Wal-mart building. Appointments are recommended for the drive-up testing. Learn more at metromeduc.com or call 703-687-04158.
The county’s largest physical network, the Loudoun Medical Group, also is ramping up antibody testing. Representatives of LMG and MetroMed both said that the next phase will be working with companies to test the immune status of their employees—services they plan to offer.