NC Senate Leader Phil Berger Announces Random Antibody Testing Program, Need for ‘Reliable Data’ to Make Consequential Decisions on Reopening

RALEIGH – Data, reliable data, is what we need to make confident decisions about the coronavirus and our future actions, and we have not had such actionable data, according to N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). That’s why Berger, and others, have advocated for random antibody testing across the state, so we can get a better picture about the true spread of the virus and inform decisions about reopening the economy.

Legislative leaders announced Monday that they would fund an effort, in conjunction with doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical, to test thousands of North Carolinians via mail-in kits. The testing kits will be sent to a representative sample of North Carolina citizens who volunteer to take it. The legislature has seeded the study with $100,000 to send the first 1,000 kits, though that figure is expected to grow significantly as they doctors and legislative leaders have indicated they want to test up to 25,000 North Carolinians overall.

After announcing the effort early this week, Berger and Dr. John Sanders held a press conference to further discuss the effort.

The first protests to reopen the State’s economy started in earnest this week, with one arrest at the State Capitol Complex Tuesday for violating social distancing orders. It comes after weeks of lockdown in which there have been far too many unknowns about the true extent of the viral spread to be making such consequential decisions with.

The daily data points have been gobbled up by the media, total confirmed cases and total deaths, does nothing but to fuel the hysteria that resulted in these shutdowns. New cases in Charlotte, for instance, are trending down, but you’d never know it by the media coverage of North Carolina’s hotspots.

The random antibody testing will check for, you guessed it, antibodies specific to SARS-CoV2. If they are found, that means a patient contracted the virus and developed antibodies to it. Obviously, some will know they were sick, but many may find antibodies in their blood without ever having any symptoms. Some studies have suggested up to 50 percent of people show no, or very mild symptoms.

This is important because if representative sample testing determines a statistically significant portion of the population already has antibodies, then the risk of further contagion is mitigated drastically.

It would also collect more accurate information to determine hospitalization and fatality rates, and thus reduce perhaps unwarranted fears about the virus. That could mean whole population zones would have the information to lift the lockdown and get back to making a living.

First, though, we need the data. After calling for such testing for weeks, the initial tests have gone out Monday, and thousands more are to follow.

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