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County authorizes antibody test options for employees

Ward County employees will have two options for COVID-19 antibody testing at no personal cost.

The Ward County Commission on Tuesday gave approval to a June blood drive and to using federal CARES Act dollars to cover the $70 cost for employees who wish to receive antibody testing at Trinity Health.

Vitalant, the local blood services provider, continues to offer free antibody testing to its blood donors. Antibodies develop following an infection, and components from blood found to be positive for antibodies are sometimes used in COVID-19 treatment.

Human Resources Director Tammy Terras explained the testing will guide employee decision making regarding when to get a rapid COVID-19 screening test, when to quarantine and whether to get the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who test positive for antibodies still quarantine after virus exposure, she said.

The commission voted unanimously to authorize the blood drive, but Commissioner John Pietsch cast a vote against the separate medical testing. Pietsch based his hesitancy on concerns that natural immunity varies and that antibody tests aren’t necessarily accurate.

“Generally, you are looking at a benefit or reason to do it, especially if we are spending taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I am not comfortable with this at all, and I am not comfortable spending taxpayer dollars on it and taking people away from work because I don’t understand what the goal or reason is.”

Commission Chairman John Fjeldahl said he trusts employees with the information gained from their antibody testings.

“This is just another tool that people who work here have access to,” he said.

Commissioner Howard “Bucky” Anderson agreed.

“The more information you gather and the more tests you do, the better you are able to make a personal decision,” he said.

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