Drive-thru rapid COVID-19 antibody testing to begin at Orange County Convention Center

Antibody testing begins this weekend in Orange County, Jacksonville and Palm Beach County

Antibody testing for first responders and healthcare workers begins Saturday morning at the Orange County Convention Center, said health officials on Friday.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Antibody testing for first responders and healthcare workers begins Saturday morning at the Orange County Convention Center, said health officials on Friday.

Lauren Luna with Orange County Fire Rescue said 80 antibody tests will be administered each day on a first-come, first served basis.

“You will stay in your car the whole time, and you’ll stick your arm outside of the car window, and they will draw your blood,” she said. "It’s a very small amount that they need for that test."

She said results will be available in 20 minutes.

First responders will also be required to get a COVD-19 test. The results for that test will be available in about 48 hours.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday the antibody testing would be coming to the Orange County Convention Center’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site.

DeSantis said the antibody testing lane would be added to the site’s current testing capacity. On Friday, the governor said rapid-results antibody testing would be up and running for residents to drive through at the Convention Center, in Jacksonville and in Palm Beach County beginning this weekend.

“The FDA approved [antibody] test that Florida has acquired - we have 200,000 and we have more on the way - what it will do is it will tell people whether they’ve developed the antibodies within a 15-minute timeframe,” DeSantis said. “You saw [lab technicians] doing the blood draw, you saw them taking blood, there’s a little strip that they put the blood in, they put some reagent in there, and then you watch to see the results. Then within 10 to 15 minutes you get the result, either positive for the antibodies or negative for the antibodies.”

[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]

The antibody tests Florida will use are made by Cellex, a North Carolina-based company, and is among 12 authorized by the FDA, currently.

Antibody testing has become important, especially for health care workers, so they may identify if they have already had COVID-19 and have developed some immunity to the respiratory infection.

“Basically people who have [coronavirus], they will generate antibodies to fight it, then we can test to see if you have the antibodies," DeSantis said. "We do believe that this will confer a certain level of immunity."

The governor said that to further determine what range of individuals may have already had COVID-19 and now have some level of immunity, he has worked to partner with blood donation centers to conduct serological testing.

“The Florida Department of Health has been working for weeks with One Blood ... to determine how much antibodies are in the people who are donating blood,” he said. “That’s a pretty powerful way to get a snapshot of data to get an idea of how widespread anitbodies are throughout the state of Florida.”

The governor made the announcements standing in front of a new mobile COVD-19 testing lab, one that he says is one-of-a-kind.

“We are also excited to be able to debut the first-ever mobile testing lab in the state of Florida… I think this may be the first of it’s kind for COVID doing it the way that we’re doing it,” he said.

DeSantis said the lab, built into an RV, will provide COVID-19 testing and rapid results.

[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]

“This is going to be a mobile lab with rapid testing capabilities, you’ll be able to take a sample… take it to the lab, and then within 45 minutes, it’s just putting a cartridge in a machine, then within 45 minutes you’re going to get the diagnostic results,” DeSantis said. “That is not antibody, that is whether you’re positive for the coronavirus or not.”

The mobile lab will begin its tour in South Florida, focusing heavily upon senior and long-term care facilities. DeSantis said the unit will be run by StatLab, and will function around the clock with technicians rotating in and out of shift throughout the day, generating the capability to process 500 rapid COVID-19 tests per day.

As of Friday, more than 39,000 people in Florida have tested positive for the virus, including 1,669 who have died because of COVID-19.

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About the Authors:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013. He is one of the station’s lead reporters. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.