Last Friday afternoon Rep. Adrian Madaro along with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s CEO Manny Lopes and CMO Dr. Jackie Fantes held a virtual town hall to discuss the clinical context of the COVID-19 outbreak, its impacts on the local population as well as the medical responses being implemented.
“I want to thank Manny Lopes and Dr. Jackie Fantes and the entire staff at EBNHC,” said Madaro before turning the meeting over to Dr. Fantes. “East Boston has been one of the hardest hit communities but we are so fortunate for their leadership that has ensured our communities remain safe and healthy.”
Dr. Fantes said that while EBNHC has opened COVID 19 testing to all residents in the Health Center’s service areas of Eastie, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop and Everett one recurring question keeps popping up.
“While EBNHC recently opened up testing to all one of the things on many people’s minds is the COVID antibody test,” said Fantes. “There are a lot of questions around this type of testing and it comes up a lot from our patients and from our staff. However, we are currently not doing antibody testing at the Health Center because there is currently not a whole lot of science on what that type of test means.”
Early in the pandemic some suggested those infected with COVID that test positive for antibodies would have some sort of immunity to future infections.
“In the media we’ve heard that we want that antibody test to be the passport for people back into the community,” said Fantes. “However, the science is not there yet. There’s a lot of questions around what getting a positive antibody result means. Right now all it means is
you were exposed and had a subclinical case without many symptoms or you had symptoms and a diagnosis of COVID. You would still need to wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing so it really hasn’t panned out to be the passport we were looking for.”
However, Fantes said it has been a useful tool to gauge the virus’s prevalence in a community.
Fantes and Lopes said that the Health Center is following the Governor’s Phase I plans to reopen EBNHC.
“We will start ramping up in person visits but limit our capacity to 25 percent of what it was before the pandemic,” said Dr. Fantes. “We would like to first get patients that are our high risk patients or patients with exacerbated health problems. We will continue to put the safety of our patients and staff first. Our lobbies will look much much different. We will still be scanning patients at the front door. Our waiting rooms will be marked in order to promote social distancing and masks will be worn at all times.”