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COVID-19 antibody tests prove virus infection rate is low locally

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 4:11 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - How many of you have thought back on a time recently that you felt sick, but didn't get tested and assume it was probably the coronavirus? A lot of people.

While cities across the country are finding that's the case for a lot of people, we're seeing a shocking trend here locally. The actual rate of infection is a lot lower than other places.

For the first time, antibody testing is open to the public. All you have to do is donate blood, platelets or plasma.

Ashley Whitaker, director of community resources, Shepeard Community Blood Center says they've been testing select people since May, but the results were not what they expected.

“We were really surprised to see that we only had two to three positive antibody results from our COVID-19 antibody test,” Whitaker said. “That is surprising information especially when you hear a great number of people feel they did have it.”

Out of 400 tests, only three people had the antibodies.

In a similar test launched by the Medical College of Georgia and AU Health, Columbia County teachers and first responders were tested for antibodies. Out of 989 county employees, only 2.83 percent had been infected with the coronavirus.

Researchers estimate only .02 percent of the county was infected, while cities like New York and Boston have reported a 10 to 20 percent infection rate.

What that means is most of us have not been exposed to COVID-19, and experts say that's good and bad news.

Good news - the low infection rate following the state’s shutdown could mean it worked. Bad news - cases could continue rising.

In Richmond County, cases have increased 108 percent since June 8.

“We’re hoping as we increase those tests, we will have increased positives so that those people will then be able to donate convalescent plasma, but right now we’re not seeing big numbers with that,” Whitaker said.

The more people with antibodies, the more convalescent plasma we get, and that could help save those fighting for their lives in our local hospitals.

While they need more convalescent plasma, the blood center also just needs donors, especially for Type O+ and Type O- donors.

The blood center is facing a shortage unlike any other here as most blood drives at schools and businesses were cancelled due to the virus.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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