South Florida-based Disaster Management Group (DMG) rolled out a 15-minute COVID-19 test last week that has the potential to get Floridians back to work, even as the new coronavirus continues to spread.
Miami-Dade was the first to jump at the opportunity. On Friday, Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the purchase of 20,000 DMGtests to screen first responders and support a survey of the county’s population. This represents the largest testing survey in the nation since COVID-19 was first detected.
“Miami is the first community in Florida to rapidly test thousands of potentially COVID-19 positive individuals and get a better understanding of the rate of infection in the county,” said Tom Rubio, CEO of Disaster Management Group.
“Across the country and globe, reports are saying that testing a high number of individuals is the best way to protect communities. With the highest number of positive coronavirus cases in Florida, Miami-Dade County is making a commitment to test, detect and monitor COVID-19 to prevent further spread. This will help individuals in Miami get back to work more quickly.”
Officials at all levels of government have urged for more testing. In recent weeks, governments and health care providers have opened drive-thru testing facilities across the state to conduct PCR tests, which detect coronavirus DNA. These tests are used to confirm if residents have COVID-19 after experiencing symptoms or being exposed to other COVID-positive patients. PCR test results are slow, however, taking up to two weeks.
What Miami-Dade is doing is completely different.
The DMGtest is a serological test that detects antibodies in the blood to determine if the body has been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not the person being tested has experienced symptoms. And the county is using the test on a random, representative sample so they can gain a better understanding of what they’re dealing with and how to respond.
“Our goal is to be able to get a snapshot of where the virus is going and how many people are reacting to it,” Gimenez said. “Having that information will help us get ahead of what’s happening on COVID-19 and guide us on how best to use our resources to stop the spread of this virus… This will give us tremendous insight into the dynamics of this virus.”
The survey, conducted in partnership with the University of Miami School of Medicine, will select a random, representative sample of residents for testing. Respondents who agree to participate will allow their blood to be collected through a simple finger-prick, and results will be available in just 15 minutes.
The findings of the research will accomplish three things:
— Identify hot spots in the county where the virus is spreading quickly and more aggressive, protective measures may be necessary.
— Indicate how many residents were infected with COVID-19, regardless of whether they experienced symptoms.
— Inform officials of who, after being exposed to COVID-19, may now be immune to the virus for a period of time, and therefore eligible to work and participate in community events.
Similar tests conducted in other countries, including Iceland and Italy, have shown that 50% of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 never experience the symptoms that are reported in others, such as cough, fever and shortness of breath. That means they were infected and were likely spreading the virus without knowing it.
So how will this screening tool help get Floridians back to work?
Simply put, people who have already had the virus and are at low risk of reinfection could start clocking back in without government and health officials worrying about them spreading the disease to others.
A recent column in The Wall Street Journal also promoted coronavirus serological tests — like DMGtest — as an important tool to restarting the economy, calling them “essential for tailoring interventions to stop local spread” and adding that they “may allow for less-restrictive measures.”
DMGtest is a rapid blood test that was developed by BioMedomics and is available through DMG to state and local governments, as well as commercial organizations.
Because the test relies on the level of antibody production in each individual’s blood, there is an 89 percent to 91 percent accuracy rate. More than 2 million tests have been administered around the world since the outbreak in Wuhan.
The DMGtest is offered with the support of the DMGapp, a tool on the Salesforce Health Cloud that allows individuals to find the nearest testing facility, schedule an appointment, check in for an appointment and learn the results of the test.
The DMGapp also enables individuals to monitor their symptoms. That information, tied to the test results, all of which are protected by HIPAA, can be extremely useful in determining effective strategies to combat the outbreak.