The City of Saco made coronavirus antibody testing available to its first responders, public safety dispatchers, lifeguards, and direct mutual aid partners this week with a mobile unit visiting Central Fire Station from 7 to 10 a.m. on June 16 and 18. The direct mutual aid agencies joining Saco include Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, and Goodwins Mills.

“Our focus is on providing reassurance to our public safety responders, so they may know whether or not they have had COVID-19,” said Fire Chief John Duross. “While there still much to learn about this virus and the risk to first responders, there is some value in knowing just how significant the occurrences of spread are. We may find that some are in that asymptomatic population, or some who may have had minor illness may now be able to determine if it was seasonal allergies, a different strain of the influenza virus, or was the Coronavirus.”

Saco’s Firefighter/EMS providers respond to more than 3,500 fire suppression incidents per year (including 81 major fire incidents) and more than 2,800 emergency medical calls. In the time of COVID-19, these brave men and women face new challenges to their health and safety but have remained dedicated to protecting our community members.

Facilitated with AFC Urgent Care in South Portland, the mobile unit will be staffed by two medical assistants who will perform blood draws for the antibody test.

The antibody test AFC Urgent Care will perform for staff is different than the PCR COVID-19 test, which is done with a nasal swab, and is checking for the active presence of the COVID-19 virus itself. Quest Laboratories, a leader in infectious disease testing services, is using the Abbott Architect Kit.This test is not approved by the FDA but has been approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA.

A positive test would likely mean the person previously had COVID-19 and that the person has developed an antibody to the virus. While the U.S. CDC has made no formal announcement, a positive test would likely give a person some protection. However, people are encouraged to continue to follow all state and federal regulations regarding health and safety.

A negative test could mean the person has not had enough of an exposure to COVID-19 to elicit an immune response. It is possible that the person tested could have been exposed to COVID-19 but received the test too early, and their body had not produced antibodies yet.

“Saco police officers, along with other first responders, have continued responding to calls during the pandemic and may not know if they have been exposed to COVID-19, especially since some are asymptomatic,” said Police Chief Jack Clements. “This testing will provide valuable information to our workforce as well as critical data for the Maine CDC.”

Individuals will be notified of their test results, which are expected within 24-48 hours of testing.

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