Firefighter COVID-19 Test (copy)

Lt. Stephen Jones has blood drawn for a COVID-19 antibody test by firefighter and paramedic student Steve Barcenas in July at United Steam Fire Engine Company #3 in Frederick. Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday all firefighters in the state will be receive serology tests. 

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that all professional and volunteer firefighters in Maryland will receive serology tests for COVID-19.

Serology testing uses blood samples to look for antibodies made in response to a previous COVID-19 infection. It is not a diagnostic test, but it will provide a clearer picture of how many Maryland residents have been exposed to COVID-19.

“Our firefighters are on the front lines of emergency response, which greatly increases their risk to exposure to COVID-19,” Hogan said in a press release. “Serology testing helps our health officials determine the prevalence of the virus so we can have a better idea about how to prevent transmissions and help protect our essential workforce.”

The serology testing initiative was active in seven Maryland jurisdictions, including Frederick County, prior to Hogan’s announcement Monday.

Since Sept. 15, Frederick County and Annapolis have submitted more than 650 serology samples from their firefighting forces, generating a positivity rate of 1.9 percent. Frederick County began collecting samples from its firefighters in July.

Five other jurisdictions, Fort Detrick, Prince George’s County, Worcester County, Salisbury and BWI Station, have received or requested testing supplies.

“We’re working closely with all of our local jurisdictions to continue to bring them into this initiative,” Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall said. “More participation not only increases the reach of our study,but also provides valuable insight about the prevalence of COVID-19 among our first responders and the communities they serve.”

The testing involves drawing blood to produce a sample. The samples are then sent to the state Public Health Laboratory for analysis. Results are typically provided within 24 hours.

This initiative is the result of collaboration between the Maryland Department of Health and the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

MDH said it plans to expand free antibody testing to include all first responders in the coming months.

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek.

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