CUTX debuts free coronavirus antibody testing for staff. Does it work?

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Credit Union of Texas this week began offering free COVID-19 antibody tests for employees.

Medical technicians on site at Credit Union of Texas for COVID-19 antibody testing.
Medical technicians on site at Credit Union of Texas for COVID-19 antibody testing.

The Allen, Texas-based institution is believed to be one of the first credit unions in the nation to offer that perk. The move is similar to cancer-screening programs some institutions have put in place for employees.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise across the country. As of late Thursday, Texas had seen more than 70,000 new cases in the last seven days, according to the New York Times, an increase of more than 23%.

“We know antibody testing is still so new and it’s difficult to say if it’s definitive or what the response is, but we wanted employees to be able to say, ‘I’ve had it in the past and have built up some immunity to it,’” said Jennifer Olvera, VP of engagement.

The testing has helped give staff proof they need to donate blood and plasma or peace of mind to see grandchildren they haven’t visited in months, she said.

Medical technicians draw a small amount of blood with a finger stick for each test and the process can be done in about 90 seconds, with results available about 15 minutes later.

The testing is open to all 421 employees of the $1.4 billion-asset CUTX and its subsidiaries but, for now, not their immediate family members, though that could change in the future. Employees are not required to be tested, but more than half of its workforce signed up for the service and Olvera said management expects at least 75% to utilize the service. The credit union plans to offer the testing on a monthly basis.

Each test costs $60 and covers two different antibodies, one to determine if a person has previously had COVID-19 and another to determine if they currently have the virus. No one has tested positive for the coronavirus yet, said Olvera, but if an employee does the technicians can immediately do a nasal swab to get confirmation. If an employee is diagnosed with a positive case of the virus through these tests, CUTX will pay for immediate family to be tested, added Olvera.

The firm doing the testing, Kai Medical Laboratories, was referred to management by local hospitals and medical groups CUTX partners with, including some who are business customers at the credit union.

Antibody testing for COVID-19 has garnered a significant amount of skepticism since the outbreak overtook the United States, in part because a variety of tests exist and none have been proven to be 100% accurate or effective. So could CUTX be lulling staff into a false sense of security?

“We let everybody know that at this point in time it’s experimental and we only know what the most recent reports are that are given to us,” said Olvera. “We let people know that even if you do have the antibodies, everybody has to stay protected and safe, because there are cases where even if people did have COVID, they may get infected again.”

Management continues to advise social distancing and following CDC safety guidelines, she added.

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