Sanford Health offers COVID-19 antibody testing to public

Test for probable exposure available at dozens of sites

A female scientist stands next to an antibody testing machine

Curious about whether you may have been exposed to the virus causing COVID-19 and developed antibodies? Sanford Health has a test for that, likely near you.

At nearly 50 sites in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, whether or not you’re a Sanford Health patient, you can stop in and get a quick blood draw. No appointment needed.

The antibody test doesn’t test for an active COVID-19 infection. So if you currently have symptoms, contact your provider for guidance. A nasal swab is the appropriate test for active COVID-19 infections.

It can take up to three weeks after a COVID-19 infection for your body to develop antibodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So a positive result from this test indicates probable exposure at some point in the past.

Right now, it’s not considered an indication of immunity, however. Studies have yet to determine whether antibodies offer protection from a second infection, or if there is protection, how long it may last.

To that end, Sanford Research has begun enrolling Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society employees in a study to learn more about the prevalence, duration and rate of acquisition of the antibodies for the COVID-19 virus.

But whether people might test positive or negative for antibodies, it shouldn’t affect their decisions, according to Dr. Susan Hoover, an infectious disease specialist with Sanford Health.

“You should not change your behavior in response to an antibody test,” she said. Masking, social distancing, frequent hand-washing and other COVID-19 precautions still apply to everyone.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even with the antibody test’s high sensitivity, tests still may deliver false positives. And different methods of testing used elsewhere may not yield the same result.

Hope for antibody testing

Out of roughly 6,000 antibody tests Sanford Laboratories had processed recently for patients, the rate of positive tests was about 6.8%, according to Dan Ingemansen, senior director at Sanford Laboratories. The lab can process 1,000 antibody tests in a day.

If you come in to get tested at a Sanford Health facility, keep in mind that clinical safety recommendations will apply, including screening questions, mask-wearing and social distancing.

For now, antibody testing exists mainly to satisfy a person’s curiosity about, for example, whether that mystery illness back in March was COVID-19.

“This is an after-the-fact way to add an additional data point about whether you may have had it,” said Dr. Lorne Holland, senior director of clinical pathology at Sanford Health.

But he shares the ultimate goal of antibody testing for the virus causing COVID-19. “It would be nice if you could get that immunity passport,” he said.

Ideally, then, a certain antibody score would tell you you’re immune from being infected, like it can with infectious diseases such as measles or mumps. It doesn’t work for influenza, however, and whether it could for COVID-19 must yet be determined.

Here are more details about Sanford Health’s antibody testing.

Who can be tested? Do I need a referral?

Antibody testing is available to everyone and does not require a provider referral.

How much does the testing cost?

The test costs $65. Insurance is not billed, and payment is required at the time of service. Sanford Laboratories accepts all major credit cards.

How soon will I get results?

You will receive a message in My Sanford Chart within three to four days of your test. If you don’t have a My Sanford Chart account, test results will be mailed to you.

What can I expect when I visit a testing location?

You should expect your visit to resemble a clinic visit. Adult patients are allowed one visitor, while pediatric patients are allowed two. All patients and visitors must wear a mask (cloth or surgical) at all times. The test includes a blood draw. You can expect to be in the clinic for around 20 minutes, just as you would for any other blood draw. Remember, payment is required at the time of service.

What will I be tested for?

You will be tested for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are an immune system response formed to attack a virus.

What does a positive test mean?

At this time, a positive antibody test is presumed to mean a person has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 at some point in the past or currently has the virus. It is currently unknown if having antibodies means you are protected against reinfection with SARS-CoV-2.

Will this test tell me if I have COVID-19?

No. This test will only detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and is not designed to detect an active infection of the virus. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, schedule an e-visit or call your doctor’s office.

Where can I get the testing done? How do I schedule it?

Testing is available at the locations listed below. No appointment is necessary.

North Dakota

South Dakota

Minnesota

Iowa

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