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Houston companies turn to antibody testing as employees prepare to go back to work

HOUSTON – As people get ready to return to work, some companies are starting to use antibody tests to see which employees may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

For many companies, the pandemic has created a new working environment that relies heavily on telecommuting and remote participation. But for those companies with traditional, brick and mortar workplaces, they want to ensure the spaces are safe. So they're testing employees to see if they've already had COVID-19 and are presumably resistant to it.

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“Even if just one person will be able to have that understanding that they have immunities to this disease it’s worth it to us,” said Brian DeSpain, President of Houston-based Global O-Ring & Seal.

At the Principle Health Systems lab in Clear Lake, a drive-up antibody test costs $75, with results usually available in a day.

“They’re sitting in their car until they’re called, they have their blood drawn, and they’re out,” said James Dieter, CEO of Principle Health Systems.

But there are questions about what having antibodies really means. Some experts believe that if a person tests positive for antibodies, they’re immune to COVID-19 going forward. But some wonder whether they’re truly protected against reinfection.

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“We believe if you have antibody resistance, you are safer than somebody without antibody resistance,” Dieter said.

Something else to keep in mind is the type of antibody test you get. The tests at Principle Health Systems, so-called IGG tests, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But there are more than a hundred other antibody tests on the market that don’t have that approval, so it’s best to do your research before you take it.

The results are said to be about 95% accurate, so there is some margin for error.

Drive-up service will be available at Principle Health Systems location at 16840 Buccaneer Lane in Houston during regular business hours.