NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – First responders are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and it has left many wondering if they were exposed to the virus, even if they haven’t shown symptoms.
In Parker County, an emergency team is taking a test that could determine that.
Lifecare EMS, Parker County’s emergency team, is already taking extra precautions by wearing personal protective equipment.
“We wear a gown and this is a N95 mask, we also put on gloves and use face protection… usually a face shield,” paramedic Jake O’Quin said.
“We’re noticing in the past several weeks that we’ve had an increase in calls for cases that could be COVID-19, so as result of that we want to find out if we have some of our personnel who have already contracted the disease,” Life Care EMS Medical Director Donald Phillips said.
Lifecare EMS paramedics and staff have started taking the COVID-19 antibodies test. ARCpoint Labs of Southwest Fort Worth administers them on-site on Wednesdays.
“It was a simple process,” O’Quin said. “It was just a quick finger prick. Take a little sample of blood and waited 10 minutes.”
The test has the capability of detecting if a person has been exposed to the virus in the past and has built up antibodies. Paramedics said this info better prepares them for calls.
“It’s just good info to know if you do have immunity to it,” O’Quin said.
“We’re still going to respond the same way, but some of those guys if they have shown immunity then that may be an extra layer for them and their family to be more comfortable with what they’re doing,” Phillips said.
“It gives you a little bit of security when going home,” Hayman said.
“Exposure is a concern,” O’Quin said. “You don’t want to bring it your family.”
Paramedics also pointed out if they do test positive, they could also potentially donate plasma to severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The FDA hasn’t approved the tests, but it’s available under the emergency use authorization guidelines.