MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As part of a first-in-the-nation random survey, the University of Miami School of Medicine will begin using a screening tool that reveals whether or not the body has been exposed to COVID-19 in just 15 minutes.
“The name of this study is SPARK-C: Surveillance Program Assessing Risk and Knowledge of Coronavirus. No community of our size in the United States has taken on such as study. I’m really proud of this public, private and academic partnership,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday during his daily video announcement. “I also want to thank Disaster Management Group, a South Florida company, for providing this quick and easy blood test that will be taken by a finger prick.”
The DMG rapid blood test was that was delivered to Miami-Dade in partnership with BioMedomics. More than 2 million tests have been administered around the world since the outbreak in Wuhan.
“Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez is showing great leadership by making such a significant investment to survey the population and truly determine how many are infected, where the hot spots are located and who is safe to get back to work,” said DMG CEO Tom Rubio in a statement.
This week, Miami-Dade received more than 20,000 DMGtests to begin the program, 750 residents will be tested each week for several weeks as part of the survey. 3500 people will be tested over the next month.
“Those individuals are representative of our county’s unique socio demographic backgrounds. And we’re asking them to participate in an effort whereby we use a serologic point of care antibody test to determine whether or not they’ve been exposed to infection,” said Dr. Erin Kobetz with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “And this allows us to wrap our heads around the burden of local infection and how the curve Maybe changing with social distancing measures in place.”
The test involves collecting a blood sample from a finger prick. The test detects exposure to COVID-19 whether a patient is experiencing symptoms or not, within four days of the antibody production in a person’s blood. Because the test relies on the level of antibody production in each individual’s blood, there is an 89 percent to 91 percent accuracy rate.
Across the country and around the globe, reports confirm that testing a high volume of individuals is the best way to prevent further spread of COVID-19 among communities. Data on who has been exposed and who may have developed immunity to the virus can help determine when restrictive measures currently in place are no longer necessary.
“I think our response has been slower than is ideal. That’s not in regard to what’s happening at the frontlines,” said Dr. Kobetz. “But I think from a public health perspective, we’re often under invested and undervalued. And we may not be moving quickly enough on a national scale, to be able to return to life as normal, as quick as would be ideal or the economy necessitates.”
The goal of doing the testing and study is to better understand the infection spread and help governments plan their response.
“We’re only Testing individuals with known symptoms or individuals who are at high risk for morbidity and mortality associated with infection. This effort allows us to understand how the curve of infection in Miami Dade County may be changing with more and more social distancing,” said Dr. Kobetz. “It also allows us to appreciate how many asymptomatic individuals may in fact, be infected. And it also allows us to identify geographies where the burden of infection may be higher.”