On Monday, the Bear River Health Department began COVID-19 antibody testing for employees of Cache County Sheriff’s Office. According to Sheriff Chad Jensen, an estimated 91 employees volunteered for testing.
According to a press release, the health department has partnered with Cache County and Box Elder County sheriffs to offer the tests. The antibody tests are performed by taking blood samples, which are analyzed for two different types of antibodies and may be able to tell if an individual has been previously infected with the novel coronavirus.
According to Joshua Greer, the public information officer for the Bear River Health Department, turnaround time for test results is an estimated two to three days.
“We’re excited that we now have the capability to offer this antibody test,” stated Lloyd Berentzen, executive director for Bear River Health Department, in the statement. “A lot of individuals in our community would like to know if they have been exposed to COVID and have already built up antibodies. We are grateful for our first-line responders at the sheriff’s offices and are happy to start this testing process with them.”
In an interview with The Herald Journal, Jensen said the antibody tests are not mandatory for employees. As sheriff, Jensen said he would not receive individuals’ test results but may be given data on how many employees tested positive for antibodies. Greer said all positive tests will be evaluated by the health department’s epidemiological team who will determine what actions, if any, will be taken.
“If someone tests positive for COVID antibodies it is strongly recommended that they get the nasal swab to determine if they have an active COVID infection,” Greer said.
Jensen said he wants to provide some peace of mind for employees concerned about possible exposure. He said there is concern for employees around bringing the virus home to their families as well as spread to staff and inmates.
“I want my folks to know where they’re at,” Jensen said. “I’ve sent 19 people home with possible exposures.”
According to Jensen, there have been no COVID-19 positive inmates in the Cache County Jail, and any potential at-risk employees are not allowed to enter the facilities as per screening protocols.
“I worry a lot about our jail and our inmates and our staff,” Jensen said. “I want to make sure that we’re doing the right things and we know where we’re at.”
Jensen said if an employee believes they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, they are allowed to take leave with their wages paid through federal funding.
“There’s no incentive not to take the test,” Jensen said regarding Sheriff’s Office employees. “There’s no financial reason not to go home sick if you’re sick.”