Emergency workers pass COVID-19 antibody tests

No positive results found by Canadian County Emergency Management

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By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer

More than 400 Canadian County emergency responders went through recent COVID-19 antibody testing – and all tested negative.

The Canadian County Emergency Responders Antibody Clinic was March 13-14 at the Mustang Recreation Center, 1201 N Mustang Road.

As Canadian County and its municipalities started to reopen businesses and facilities, Canadian County Emergency Management hosted the free, optional finger stick tests for emergency responders from all county first response agencies.

“We successfully tested 408 county-wide emergency responders – career and volunteers – for COVID-19 antibodies,” Canadian County Emergency Management Director Andrew Skidmore said. “Everyone tested at the clinic had negative results for antibodies.”

Had anyone tested positive, nasal “swab” tests were available to double-check to see if they currently had the novel coronavirus.

“Emergency responders are used to being essential and on the front lines of any disaster – natural or man-made,” Skidmore said. “This current pandemic is no exception and has required organizations to alter and even change their policies, practices and response in an unprecedented manner.

“While the rest of the nation has been ordered to stay at home or shelter in place, emergency responders have been told not only to keep working, but also to show up to all the homes and establishments at the highest risk.”

Many emergency responders have been consistently exposed to and are at higher risk of both suffering from and carrying the virus, Skidmore noted.

An antibody test screens for antibodies in the blood, which the body produces when it fights an infection like the deadly COVID-19 disease. An antibody test isn’t checking for the virus itself.

Instead, the test looks to see whether the person’s immune system (the body’s defense against illness) has responded to the infection.

Antibodies are typically present in the blood anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks after the body has been infected, according to the county’s emergency management director.

Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning, approved paying a $36,000 claim to Gryphon ESP – the company that conducted the antibody testing clinic.

Canadian County is eligible for a $27,000 reimbursement, or 75%, of that total cost through an Emergency Management Performance grant.

Skidmore encouraged all Canadian County emergency responders to continue best practices of PPE (personal protective equipment) use and cleaning.

“Emergency responders have to act as though they and everyone they come in contact with has the virus, regardless of testing,” he said.

There have been 128 positive COVID-19 cases (including three deaths) and 114 recoveries in Canadian County, according to the Oklahoma State Health Department.

Canadian County is ranked ninth in COVID-19 cases across Oklahoma – behind Oklahoma, Tulsa, Texas, Cleveland, Washington, Comanche, Caddo, and Wagoner.

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EMERGENCY OPERATIONS PLAN

Meanwhile, county commissioners this week received for their review a revised Canadian County Emergency Operations Plan.

Skidmore told commissioners he’s spent the past 1-1/2 years updating and rewriting the plan, which must be revised every five years. The proposed new plan is better tailored to Canadian County and its first response agencies, he added.

Commissioners are expected to adopt the revised emergency operations plan at its next regular weekly meeting.