Monday, April 13, 2020

Monterey Testing Laboratory One of Few on Central Coast Providing COVID-19 Antibody Testing

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has closed many businesses across the country, but there has also been an unexpected surge in some businesses, especially in the medical, health care and laboratory fields.

Monterey, CA, April 14, 2020 — The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has closed many businesses across the country, but there has also been an unexpected surge in some businesses, especially in the medical, health care and laboratory fields.

One such business is the Monterey-based ARCpoint Labs of Monterey Bay, one of the nation’s leaders in drug testing, alcohol screening, DNA and clinical lab testing, corporate wellness programs and employment/background screening.

Prior to the quarantines and closures mandated by COVID-19, about two-thirds of ARCpoint business came from wellness testing, specialized testing for people with specific conditions or diseases, such as celiac and lyme disease and mold sensitivities.

But now, according to ARCpoint co-owner and lab director Spenser Smith, more than 90% of its testing is focused on COVID-19 antibody testing, tests that determine whether a person has been infected by the virus and recovered, which produces antibodies that can be tested two ways: by a simple finger-prick to draw blood, or a more involved process that takes a tube of blood from the arm, much like a standard blood test.

ARCpoint had been doing almost all of its antibody tests the first way, with a drive-through system set up in its parking lot. The other method involves going into the laboratory to have your blood drawn. Results from the finger-prick test can be produced within 15-20 minutes, but because of the high volume of tests, are usually available by the end of the day. The second method requires the blood to be sent to a lab in Florida, with results available in a couple of days.

The FDA had allowed labs to give the finger-prick tests on April 1, but by April 11 had changed its guidelines so that labs, including ARCpoint, could only give the second test.

“It means we won't be doing the finger-stick version of the test for now, but we will be switching to a version of the test that uses a whole tube of blood from the arm, is more accurate, has earlier detection, and is considered by doctors and health professionals to be a big step forward in medical usefulness,” said Smith. “This test is a new and improved version that we are rolling out to continue our embrace of the newest testing technologies for COVID-19.”

Smith said the downside of the new tests is that it takes longer to perform, can’t be done in a drive-through and is more expensive, at about $175 as opposed to the $68.31 cost of the finger-prick test cost.

The concept of the blood tests is that people who have been exposed to the virus can develop antibodies, which can help them resist another infection. That way the body’s antibodies against COVID-19 can reduce the chances of getting infected again.

The hope is that those tested and found to have immunized antibodies could then return to work and help restart the economy.

Smith said his company, which was founded three years ago by him, his brother (who is the lab director on the toxicology side), mother and father, is hoping to get the costs down for the arm-draw method of testing.

The priority for testing is first responders and health care workers (as well as those on the front lines, such as grocery store workers, maintenance and janitorial workers and delivery drivers), but those who exhibited symptoms, didn’t get tested, and recovered, are also welcome to be tested.

For now, all testing is done by appointment-only, by phone or through its appointment portal on its website at Smith said he wanted the public to know that these tests, which are the same as the tests Stanford University and USC used in their studies on the prevalence of COVID-19 exposure in California, only detects protective antibodies to the virus rather than the virus itself.

The tests that detects the virus itself, the most common test is the so-called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, involves taking nasal and throat swabs, which then have to be sent to a centralized lab to test for viral RNA (ribonucleic acid, the marker that contains genetic information to detect the presence of the virus). These tests can often take days (sometimes weeks because of the demand) to get results. ARCpoint currently offers a small number of these tests to patients with a doctor’s order, but supplies have been limited throughout the nation since the onset of the outbreak.

Smith said that ARCpoint is part of a franchise operation that has more than 100 facilities across the country, but that the Monterey operation is just one of a half-dozen that is doing the COVID-19 antibody testing.

Right now the company is doing its testing on a cash-only basis since insurance companies have not determined a pricing and billing system for COVID-19 tests yet.

Because of the increased volume of testing ARCpoint has been experiencing, they have had to hire several temporary employees to handle the demand, Smith said.

Smith added that his company would like to offer PCR testing for the virus more widely, but that testing currently is experiencing a lot of issues, including the accuracy of the testing, false positives and lengthy waits for results. Because of that, health officials are urging Americans to reserve diagnostic tests for the active virus — the PCR tests — for health care workers, first responders and patients in hospitals.

ARCpoint Labs is a full-service national third-party provider/administrator of diagnostic testing. The services at its Monterey Bay location encompass both onsite and offsite pre-employment, random, post-accident and reasonable suspicion drug testing. In addition, ARCpoint also serves many judicial, athletic, and medical clients across the United States.

The family, which has made the Monterey Peninsula its home for over 30 years, has been in the drug and alcohol testing business for more than 18 years, has 50 years of combined business experience on the Central Coast, and its staff has over 60 years of combined industry experience.

ARCpoint Labs’ mission is to provide accurate, reliable, and confidential diagnostic testing for individuals, companies, and legal and healthcare professionals.

Media note: ARCpoint Co-Owner and Labs Lab Director Spenser Smith is available for media interviews. Please contact Marci Bracco Cain at (831) 747-7455 to set up an interview.

Marci Bracco Cain
Chatterbox PR
Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 747-7455

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