Even before COVID-19 made its way to our region, Chester County’s Health Department enacted a public health plan that ensured our businesses, schools and universities, hospitals, long-term care facilities, non-profits, churches and citizens were informed of the virus, its potential impact, and the ways to try and control it.
COVID-19 did not come with its own “play book.” It has been a fluid and ever evolving situation. But from the start, Chester County has been determined to assess and evaluate as many options as possible to control the spread of the virus. So, in addition to providing information, investigation and contact tracing services, our public health and emergency response teams researched and evaluated multiple COVID-19 testing options. The County’s search for various testing options led to recommendations by many individuals suggesting a variety of potential solutions. But ultimately, it was the County’s public health team that evaluated the potential solutions and provided advice on what was feasible and what was not.
Knowing that there was a significant delay on nasal swab test kits, the public health team determined that antibody tests would be a potentially good interim measure. The antibody testing would be one tool in the County’s COVID-19 data collection toolbox, used before enough nasal swab testing supplies could be produced and obtained.
After evaluating multiple antibody tests, Chester County’s public health team recommended use of the Advaite test. Initial use of Advaite’s antibody tests produced seemingly reliable results. It was not until after a routine review of some results over a specific time period by the County’s public health team, that a higher number of positive test results than expected, began to occur.
Because the public health team was key in evaluating the credibility of Advaite’s antibody tests and approving them for use by the County, their concerns about potential false positives were immediately taken seriously when relayed to the Director of the Chester County Health Department. An immediate investigation by the Health Department included contact with Advaite to request an evaluation of the efficacy of the antibody tests administered during the specific time period. The Health Department also conducted an internal audit of its antibody testing processes, and during this time, did not post questionable antibody testing results on its website, to prevent dissemination of potentially false information.
Because further analysis was needed to identify whether the antibody test results during the specific time period were truly inaccurate, it was determined that a blanket communication should not be sent to those who potentially received inaccurate antibody test results. Two weeks later, the Chester County Health Department was still not able to conclusively identify the cause of the potentially inaccurate test results. At that point all patients would have completed the recommended consult with their physician as well as quarantine. In hindsight, communication noting the potential inaccuracies of the antibody tests should have been provided to test recipients on the affected days. The Chester County Health Department has since sent communication to all potentially affected test recipients, offering the option of a second, different, antibody test.
The Chester County Commissioners takes seriously the responsibility of Chester County government to follow policies and procedures that ensure the best possible services and programs are made available to citizens at all times, including during a global pandemic. The Commissioners will be appointing an independent legal consultant to review the process associated with sourcing and procuring the antibody tests so that recommendations may be provided on how policies and procedures can be improved.
The Commissioners are also working to determine how to proceed regarding previous payments to Advaite for the antibody test kits.