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Intermountain antibody tests
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Intermountain Healthcare to start COVID-19 antibody tests

Intermountain Healthcare will begin antibody tests. Dr. Bert Lopansri (left) and Dr. Edward Stenehjem made the announcement during a virtual news conference on Tuesday. (Photo: Kelli Pierce)

SALT LAKE CITY – Intermountain Healthcare wants your blood…for new antibody tests that could help track how far COVID-19 has spread in Utah. The Intermountain antibody tests will be given to certain patients. 

Dr. Edward Stenejem, an infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare, made the announcement during a virtual news conference on Tuesday. He said they are looking for certain patients to take the antibody tests. 

“The first is the outpatient who has signs and symptoms of Coronavirus that has lasted more than 14 days and has a negative nasal test…The second one is for patients who have had high-risk exposures, meaning they weren’t wearing masks or personal protective equipment,” Dr. Stenejem said. 

This would include people who live with others who have contracted COVID-19 or who may have traveled recently to a COVID-19 hot spot like Italy.  

Dr. Stenejem also encouraged people to ask for a test if they have had an illness similar to COVID-19 since December 1, 2019. 

“If you, in the month of March, for example, had a fever, shortness of breath, and a cough, but never sought care or the [nasal] test wasn’t available to you, this is somebody who could have an [COVID-19] antibody test,” Dr. Stenejem said. 

Because supplies are limited, the test is only available right now to Intermountain Healthcare patients who are referred by their doctor.

People whose antibody test comes back positive are encouraged to keep social distancing. 

“That positive test doesn’t necessarily mean you have long-standing immunity. We can’t say that you are now immune to this infection, and the science of that will take a while for us to determine,” Dr. Stenejem said. 

But it could help doctors better treat their patients.

Intermountain Healthcare’s antibody test is one of several that may help public health officials in Utah trace the spread of COVID-19. The University of Utah is expected to announce its own COVID-19 antibody testing program on Wednesday.