The Bottom Line: Antibody testing for COVID-19 is not currently appropriate or advised to assist employers in return to work decision making.
The scientific community does not yet know if a positive antibody test (positive IgG result) means that an individual is immune to COVID-19.
In theory, a positive test would indicate that the individual has contracted COVID-19 in the past and is prepared to fight the infection in the future. However, we do not currently have evidence to say that the individual cannot contract the COVID-19 virus again.
Further research is needed to uncover evidence about immunity. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) does not recommend the use of serology results for return-to-work decisions. As the research is rapidly evolving, we hope to learn more about valid testing to help inform the public about COVID-19.
According to the CDC, currently, antibody testing cannot answer how much of the U.S. population is immune to COVID-19 and not able to get infected again. It also cannot answer how long someone with antibodies is protected from COVID-19, if that person can be re-infected with COVID-19 or if people with antibodies can return to work.
Overall, these tests may provide individuals with a false sense of security resulting in ignoring public health advice and increasing the risk of continued transmission.
Even without antibody testing, employers can still plan a safe to return to work. Here's how:
- Carefully evaluate the necessity of employees returning to the office. Is it critical for the survival of your business for specific employees to return to the office? If not, continue work-from-home protocol.
- If you choose to return to the office out of necessity to support your business, be sure to establish protocols for all employees to follow credible public health safety measures. These include wearing face masks, performing temperature checks, hand washing, and social distancing. Plenty of free guidance is available!
- Stay informed and up to date through credible sources like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Medical Association (AMA), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Continue to look out for the health and wellbeing of your employees. It is crucial for individual employees to understand their specific risk, not only during a global pandemic, but always. Understanding health risks helps an individual take control of their personal wellness journey. Employers can support their workforce by implementing a wellness plan strategically designed to reduce preventable risk factors that contribute to adverse COVID-19 outcomes (e.g. obesity) Workplace wellness programs support reasonable lifestyle improvements that benefit both the employee and the employer.
Bravo is here to help guide you in protecting the health of your workforce and help save you money now (don’t spend your money on invalid testing) and in the future (establish well-designed wellness program to lower cost of benefits).
For more information about how to adjust your program to support your employees during these unprecedented times, contact your sales or account executive, or submit a request through our website.
Also, join our Back to Work With COVID-19 webinar series for more insights on supporting employees physical and emotional health.
More details from the experts…
Visit the following credible resources for more FREE guidance:
American Medical Association
“Given that we do not yet have scientific evidence showing if, when and for how long individuals might become immune to COVID-19, physicians and the general public should not use antibody testing to consider anyone immune to the disease—doing so may lead individuals to falsely assume they can stop physical distancing and further the spread of illness,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A.
World Health Organization
“WHO does not currently recommend the use of antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic tests for patient care, although research into their performance and potential diagnostic utility is highly encouraged.”
“WHO does not recommend the use of antibody-detecting rapid diagnostic tests for patient care but encourages the continuation of work to establish their usefulness in disease surveillance and epidemiologic research.”
Infectious Diseases Society of America
“IDSA COVID-19 Antibody Testing Primer Updated:
May 4, 2020
As serological testing for SARS-CoV-2 advances, there are multiple issues that need to be addressed, from test quality to interpretation. Unlike molecular tests for COVID-19 (e.g., PCR), antibody tests may be better suited for public health surveillance and vaccine development than for diagnosis. The current antibody testing landscape is varied and clinically unverified, and these tests should not be used as the sole test for diagnostic decisions. Further, until more evidence about protective immunity is available, serology results should not be used to make staffing decisions or decisions regarding the need for personal protective equipment.”
Sethuraman N, Jeremiah SS, Ryo A. Interpreting Diagnostic Tests for SARS-CoV-2. JAMA. Published online May 06, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8259
American Medical Association, https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/ama-cautions-about-limitations-antibody-testing-sars-cov-2
Cleveland Clinic Webinar: Testing 1-2-3: Testing Strategies for Employers in the Era of COVID-19, https://www.kaltura.com/index.php/extwidget/preview/partner_id/2207941/uiconf_id/37292221/entry_id/1_eaf95rdp/embed/auto?&flashvars[streamerType]=auto