Fellowship Village, a life plan community in New Jersey, is well on its way to reopening thanks in part to Covid-19 antibody testing. And other providers, including Juniper Communities, are also beginning to utilize antibody tests as part of their regimens.
The antibody test differs from the PCR “nasal swab” kit in one main way: Instead of checking for the presence of an active Covid-19 infection, it instead looks for evidence of antibodies that are fighting the disease.
The life plan community in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, tested its staff and more than 400 residents for Covid-19 antibodies over a three-week period in April and May. The tests were procured in partnership with the Bernards Township Department of Health and Dr. Thomas Porter of Advocare Basking Ridge Pediatrics.
Having that information allowed the provider to better mitigate the disease, according to Brian Lawrence, president and CEO of Fellowship Senior Living.
“Knowledge is one of the best resources and tools that you could have to make decisions,” Lawrence told Senior Housing News.
Fellowship Village is a life plan community of Fellowship Senior Living, which provides senior housing, services and programs for older adults throughout New Jersey.
The test that Fellowship used looks for two kinds of antibodies: IgM, or early antibodies which could indicate an active infection; and IgG, or late antibodies that indicate someone was previously exposed to Covid-19 and now potentially have some level of immunity — although there are questions regarding how long those antibodies and immunity lasts.
What Fellowship Village found was that 242 team members tested negative for any antibodies, 84 team members tested positive for late IgG antibodies, while another 45 team members tested positive for early IgM antibodies. Among residents, 233 tested negative for antibodies, while 34 tested positive for late IgG antibodies and 38 tested positive for early IgM antibodies.
Using the antibody data, Fellowship Village was able to re-test some of its workers and residents who may have Covid-19 using a nasal swab kit. The community found that four team members and two residents had active cases of Covid-19.
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Knowing who had the disease and who did not allowed the organization to better implement its infection control strategies. Today, the community is free of Covid-19, has reopened its outdoor dining facilities for independent living residents and resumed outside visitation for all of its residents. And, it’s keeping current on its Covid-19 infection totals by testing all of its team members and assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing residents with nasal swab kits each week on a rolling basis.
Fellowship isn’t the only senior living provider interested in antibody testing for Covid-19. Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Juniper Communities, which was an early proponent of widespread Covid-19 testing in senior living, currently uses its antibody testing for staff who have previously tested positive for the disease. Juniper is also about to pilot an antibody test with a California-based medical device company called Nanomix.
“Antibody testing is to determine whether someone’s viral load is strong enough to provide some level of immunity,” Juniper Communities Founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann told SHN. “We are evolving as the testing and the protocols change, and as we learn more.”
While Fellowship does not intend to implement antibody testing again in the foreseeable future, it has given the organization’s team members, its residents and their family members peace of mind during a turbulent time.
“There is a sense of calm throughout the organization and among our residents and our families,” Lawrence said. “They feel very supported, protected, safe and happy.”