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NYC's urgent care centers are now offering antibody testing, but you may have to wait in line

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Now that antibody testing has arrived in New York City, several urgent care centers are offering it to anyone who needs it, but like anything in demand at the moment, there may be a wait involved.

As of this week, CityMD, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, StatCare and Cure Urgent Care are doing antibody blood tests, which indicate with high accuracy if you had the virus in the past. You can get a test whether or not you've experienced symptoms, and results are provided within three-to-five days. The tests have been approved by the FDA, but like flu, strep and other widely-used diagnostic tests, they are not 100 percent accurate. 

The test is different from the nasal swab test. The swab determines whether you are positive or negative for the virus at the time of the test. The antibody test allows you to see if you've had it at any time. This matters because it could be evidence of immunity.

"[Becoming immune once you've had it] is often the case with viruses but the science is not yet clear on this particular virus," CityMD said in an email to clients on Monday. "We hope that the widespread availability of testing at CityMD will not only alleviate some of your stress, but also will help to contain the future spread of the virus."

To get a test, here's what you need to do:

  • If you are sick, wait two-to-four weeks after the end of your symptoms to get the antibody test because it can take that long for the body to produce IgG antibodies. (Tests are nearly 100 percent accurate when used 14 days after your symptoms end, CityMD says.)
  • Contact your urgent care of choice and ask about how to make an appointment. Some urgent cares ask you to schedule a virtual visit first. Just be sure to make an appointment before heading over if possible and wear a mask while you're waiting.

Things to note:

  • Anyone is eligible for the antibody test. There is no need to have had prior COVID-19 testing or confirmed symptoms.
  • The test is performed by taking a blood serum sample.
  • A positive test result means antibodies are present. A negative test result means antibodies are not present.
  • Most test results will be shown via the urgent cares' patient portal.
  • Check with your insurance to see if it covers the test before you go, though, COVID-related visits are now at no-cost to the patient under most major insurance plans, including Medicaid/Medicare at Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care.
  • If you test positive for antibodies, it's still important to take social distancing seriously.

As you can imagine, there have been reports of long waits to get the antibody test now that they're widely available.

According to befordandbowery.com, a number of Brooklyn residents at their respective CityMDs had to wait up to two hours to get a test. They weren't the only ones having to wait in line:

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#waitingonline for the #antibodytest #testing #isthisthingon #covid_19 #selfcare #mindcare #staysafeeveryone

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Ummm, what happened to social distancing? #nyc #antibodytest #waitinggame #aintantibodygottimeforthis

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Quest Diagnostics did just announce that it is offering antibody tests to recovered or well individuals so they don't need to go to the doctor to take it. Immune Response tests are available at GetQuestTest.com.

"With the introduction of this test and service, Quest is making it easy for people to access quality testing for antibodies to the virus which causes COVID-19, with access to physician interpretation and steering into needed care," Dr. Jay Wohlgemuth, the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Quest Diagnostics, said in a statement. "While the science on COVID-19 is evolving, testing for antibodies may identify people who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 and might have mounted an immune response to the virus.  Our goal is to empower individuals and their physicians to make informed decisions about their risk of infection and of spreading the virus." 

The test is $119.

LabCorp is also offering tests, with a physician’s referral, at its more than 2,000 patient service centers, as well as its 100 locations in Walgreens, according to the New York Times.

If you're wary about going to an urgent care center or purchasing your own test, just consult with your primary care doctor to determine the best course of action.

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