Dr. Katherine Dallow returned to Boston Public Radio on Monday, where she discussed the state of coronavirus testing in Massachusetts, and what different types of tests can tell us about the state’s ongoing struggle to contain COVID-19. Dallow is the Vice President of Clinical Programs and Strategy at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
The good news is that testing is up. Last week, the number of daily coronavirus tests more than doubled, with over 20,000 tests reported on Friday.
Dallow said people who show severe symptoms should be able to access testing, especially those in “the health care setting, or in residential or long-term care facilities.” Those at home with mild flu-like symptoms, meanwhile, may have to settle for what she called a “presumptive positive” diagnosis.
When asked about anitbody testing, Dallow said legislators and the public should be careful what they make of any antibody data. "Think about your common cold,” she explained. “We all develop antibodies, every time we have a cold. Have you ever seen someone who’s [developed immunity] to having the common cold again? It doesn’t work that way.”
She said that while antibody testing helps officials track the spread of the coronavirus, "making any decisions on [antibody testing] with regard to return to school, return to work, reopening the economy — you name it, is absolutely the biggest mystery we have today.”
On Sunday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced additional efforts to track the coronavirus among residents who are asymptomatic, or who don’t show signs of having COVID-19. Starting this week, 1,000 of the city’s residents will be tested for both the virus itself, as well as for COVID-19 antibodies. If accurate, antibody testing could indicate whether an immune system has been exposed the virus, regardless of whether the person showed symptoms.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that Dallow was speaking about antibody tests in general, not specifically the antibody tests Boston is implementing to track the spread of the coronavirus.