ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta became the state’s first municipality to provide COVID-19 antibody testing to first responders.

The city’s police and fire personnel were provided the opportunity to visit the testing site at Fire Station 81 on Webb Bridge Road last week as part of a joint effort with WellStar Healthcare Systems.

Funding for the program is provided by the city. The first day of testing, May 19, saw some 50 employees file through the testing site.

“Our initial program offers free antibody testing to our 200 first responders, and we are already in discussions with representatives of WellStar Healthcare System on the potential to expand the program to all City of Alpharetta employees as well as other essential workers and major employers in Alpharetta,” said Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin. “Exactly what such an expansive program would look like, how it could be achieved logistically, and how it could be funded are all being explored at this time.”

Antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins, are proteins that are produced by the immune system to help stop viruses from causing bodily harm. A person infected by COVID-19 begins to develop antibodies seven to 14 days after contracting the virus, and those antibodies can be detected in the person’ s blood.  Emerging evidence suggests those antibodies may provide an individual with a level of immunity to COVID-19 for some period of time.

It is also believed that, because some patients may contract COVID-19 but have very mild or even no symptoms, the disease may have infected more people and had a wider spread than is currently known. 

Alpharetta has partnered with StageZero Life Sciences on the current antibody testing program.

Alpharetta Public Safety Director John Robison said the department has had only one confirmed case of COVID-19. He said the department is overly cautious to keep its first responders protected from exposure when possible.

Station 81 Day Shift Capt. Marc Maikoski said fire crews have remained as isolated from the public as possible as a means of preserving the ranks. That has become easier, he said, by the goodwill from residents who have dropped off meals and other items.

“Rarely do we have to go grocery shopping,” Maikoski said.

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