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The Centers for Disease Control has already started coronavirus antibody testing, which determines whether someone has had the virus in the past, to piece together a picture of how many Americans may have already been infected.
Scaling up antibody testing is critical to re-opening the economy, said Dr. Tania Dempsey of Armonk Integrative Medicine, who practices in hard-hit Westchester County, New York.
"It is becoming more evident that there is a significant portion of the population who were exposed to COVID-19 but remain asymptomatic. These patients remain in isolation concerned about their exposure to this dangerous virus when, in fact, these patients have antibodies indicating they have already had the infection and have immunity to it now, " Dempsey told FOX Business. "These are the people who could go back to the workforce without the fear of getting infected. This would be a tremendous improvement over our current situation and would really help keep some or even most industries in business."
The testing involves drawing blood from undiagnosed people of all age groups in a community, STAT News reported. But getting Americans access to such testing, also known as serological testing because it measures antibodies in the blood, could prove difficult. So far, the FDA has only authorized one serological test for clinical laboratories under an Emergency Use Authorization, but FDA officials said more than 70 test developers have tests available.
New York, the state that has reported the most deaths from coronavirus, is working with FDA for approval of a serological test, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
"How do you start the economy back up? "How do you start getting back to work as quickly as possible?" Cuomo asked. "It's going to come down to testing. You're going to have to know who had the virus, who resolved the virus, who never had it and that's going to be testing. And that is an entirely new field that we're just developing now."
FDA officials said the tests "may potentially be used to help determine, together with other clinical data, that such individuals are no longer susceptible to infection and can return to work."
Scaling up serological testing throughout the United States will take the cooperation of scientists, doctors and the business world, Dempsey said. Health insurance companies may need to cover some of the tests, too.
"In addition, doctors will need to interpret the tests and help patients understand whether it is safe for them to re-enter the workforce," she said.