Reopening Kansas City, Antibody testing and masks May 10, 2020
Is Kansas City metropolitan area ready to reopen?
We have had excellent leadership from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. This is my professional opinion and not everyone in the community agrees. Businesses have paid dearly in this pandemic. As a physician with over 40 years of my life focused on healthcare and a small business owner impacted by this pandemic I am experiencing the difficulties of small businesses and I consider carefully the public health impact of the measures that have been ordered by our local elected officials.
Reopening businesses has already started. My wife and I on our walks this weekend came across two nail salons that are open for business. Businesses are eager to get back to full activity. These nail salons have jumped the gun.
Gradually reopening nonessential businesses and testing and tracking positive patients is the goal. We don’t have enough testing and public health employees to track contacts.
Balancing safety and restarting our businesses without adequate testing and tracking will be difficult. I have confidence that the mayor will continue to enact plans that keep us safe.
Midtown Family Medicine is not changing our protocols for now. We are continuing telemedicine and limiting in office visits on an as needed basis for those that are not at risk or have symptoms of COVID-19. We continue to wear masks with patients in the office and socially distance as much as possible.
We strongly encourage continuing social distancing and if you are in a confined area indoors or likely to be within 6 feet of people we recommend cloth masks adequately covering your nose and mouth. These masks are intended only to prevent spreading the infection to others and they will not protect the person wearing them. By wearing a cloth mask you limit the distance that you might transmit COVID-19.
While you are wearing a mask it is important to avoid touching the mask with your hands. After removing the mask it is important to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer are still the most important actions to prevent spreading and acquiring COVID-19.
Antibody testing is available
I do not recommend any of the current antibody tests that are on the market (at times we do order the test understanding the limitations of doing so)
This test is intended to determine if a patient has had COVID-19. By the time this test is positive the patient should have recovered from the infection. This is a blood test. The test for live COVID-19 is a nasopharyngeal swab test that looks for live virus.
I am waiting for a test that has been proven to be highly specific. Unless the test is proven through the FDA to be accurate it could be incorrect up to 50% of the time or more.
Why would tests be so poor? Assuming we have a 5% incidence of COVID-19 in the community and if the test is 95% specific then 5 out of one hundred people will have a false positive and 5 out of one hundred will have a true positive. My prediction for Kansas City is roughly 1.46% of the population have had COVID-19. With the above assumption of even a 98.5% specific test the results would still be a 50:50 result.
If you want to be tested to see if you have had COVID-19 please call the office and let the staff know. I have a list of patients that we will be testing once the appropriate test is available.
In summary ...
I strongly support the mayor and his leadership around this pandemic. Wearing masks will help decrease the spread of COVID-19 to others. Washing hands is most important in protecting yourself and others. Antibody testing currently available is not accurate and has limited usefullness.
Gary Thompson, MD - May 10, 2020 at 1500