IRVINE, Calif. - As company leaders across SoCal try to determine how and when to bring their employees back to work safely, an Orange County company is getting ahead of the curve by offering free antibody testing to its employees.
Kareo is a software company, offering a cloud-based software platform for independent medical practices. There are 10,000 practices and 60,000 doctors using the software around the nation.
"At Kareo, we're fortunate enough to be a software company so we do a lot of our business over the web and over the phone. We actually got all of our employees working from home about a week before the stay-at-home-order went into effect," said Founder and CEO, Dan Rodrigues.
Rodrigues teamed up with Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, a board-certified physician and surgeon who owns an independent healthcare practice in Newport Beach. Dr. Armstrong has a "complex laboratory license" and is authorized to buy and administer tests. Rodrigues and Armstrong worked together to provide drive-thru testing for Kareo employees and their families who wanted to be tested.
"We thought this would be a great way to show our support for our employees, give them a peace of mind and help educate them and understand a little bit more about COVID, about testing, and about how a return to work will look in the future," said Rodrigues.
There are two types of COVID-19 tests, molecular and serological. Molecular tests are conducted by collecting nasal swab samples and look for genetic information of the virus, which can only be found if someone is actively infected with coronavirus.
Serological tests or "antibody tests" are conducted by collecting blood samples and detecting the existence of antibodies to a specific viral strain, and can show an exposure to COVID-19.
Kareo decided to conduct antibody testing.
"We really wanted to be ahead of the curve and try to understand and learn from this. We wanted to start with that [antibody testing] to get kind of an understanding and learn and also be able to learn how widespread have our employees and their families been impacted," said Rodrigues.
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During the drive-thru testing, 415 people were tested. 375 tested negative for antibodies, 40 tested positive for antibodies, 25 tested positive for antibodies with no active infection, and 15 tested positive for antibodies with a possible active infection. Of those who have a possible active infection, the majority did not have symptoms.
"All of these except for one were completely asymptomatic. They had no idea they may have been infected and that was a bit of a surprise to us. One of the challenges with COVID is that there are a lot of asymptomatic carriers that seem to be spreading the virus so to see that in our company was definitely a bit surprising to us," said Rodrigues.
To maintain privacy, Dr. Armstrong and her team did not share the personalized test results with Kareo. However, the people who tested positive with a possible active infection were referred to another healthcare provider for molecular testing and treatment.
Other companies in Orange County reached out to Kareo to learn more about the testing.
"We've had over 20 CEO's reach out and say they would love to do that and offer it to their employees so we're at the early stages of exploring whether a 'phase two' of this test might make sense," said Rodrigues.
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The company created a task force to determine how to eventually bring employees back safely and started weekly town hall meetings to share how the pandemic is impacting the company.