FAQs: Michigan Medicine COVID-19 serology testing for employees

July 29, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Michigan Medicine is now offering COVID-19 serology testing for employees.

Q: What is serology testing?

A: Serology involves testing blood for antibodies, which are special proteins that the body produces to help fight off infections and are made in response to an infection. They can be produced even if a person has few or no symptoms. Antibodies are generally detectable after a person has recovered from the infection. 

Sometimes antibodies protect us from getting the same infection again, but we do not know whether this is true for COVID-19. We also don’t yet know how quickly antibodies are produced when someone has COVID-19 or about likely differences in the amount and type of antibodies people produce in response to infection. Antibodies are only part of the complex immune system in our bodies that works to fight off infections. 

Serology does not diagnose a person who is currently infected with COVID-19, nor does a positive test mean that you are immune.

Q: Who is eligible to participate?

A: Michigan Medicine employees who have provided patient care in inpatient and ambulatory care settings since Jan. 1, 2020 are eligible to participate. This also includes personnel who have supported patient care in patient care environments, including radiology, food and nutrition, clinical laboratory, environmental services, security and other support services necessary for daily operations.

In addition, employees who previously had symptoms concerning for COVID-19 but were unable to be tested are eligible to participate. Symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache, upper respiratory symptoms (rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, sore throat), loss of sense of smell or taste, diarrhea and rash.

Employees who previously received COVID-19 serology results through a research study or their own health care provider are not eligible to participate at this time.

Testing is confidential and free to all who meet the above-listed criteria.  Individual results are only released to participants.

Q: Those interested in participating must do the following:

The survey requires you to fill in your name, date of birth, Michigan Medicine medical record number, uniqname, and e-mail address. This information must be entered accurately as it will be used to order the serology test and to provide results when they are available. If you do not have access to your medical record number, please contact Patient Registration at 734-936-4990 or toll-free at 866-452-9896.

The survey also asks questions about your job at Michigan Medicine and potential exposures to COVID-19. This information will be used for quality improvement purposes to inform institutional COVID-19 policy. Only the demographic information is required; you may skip any other questions you do not feel comfortable answering.

  • Wait for a message in your portal or mailed letter to confirm that an order has been placed.

After completion of the survey, an order for COVID-19 serology will be placed in your MiChart record. Due to the large number of employees who will be participating, the ordering process may take several days. Once the order is placed, you will be notified via the MiChart patient portal (myuofmhealth.org) or by mailed letter. This communication will contain a link to sign up for an appointment to have your blood drawn at select Michigan Medicine blood draw stations.

  • Schedule an appointment for your blood draw.

Please do not present to a blood draw station without an appointment. This will help to avoid crowding at blood draw stations.

Q: Where will my blood be sent for testing and how will I receive my results?

A: Testing will be performed in the Michigan Medicine Clinical Core Laboratory located in University Hospital.

Results will be managed by OHS and will be sent to employees through the MiChart patient portal and/or by e-mail. It will take several days to complete and result your test following the blood draw. 

Serology results are for information only and will not impact work restrictions or work recommendations.

Q: What does a positive test result mean?

A: A positive test result means that antibodies were detected in your blood sample. This most likely means that you were infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 at some point in the past. However, it is also possible, but very unlikely given the high specificity of the test we perform, that you did not have COVID-19 and the antibodies detected were from an infection with a related virus. This is sometimes called a false positive.

A positive test result does not mean you are immune to COVID-19 or that you can’t get it again.Sometimes the antibodies developed in response to an infection protect us from getting that same infection again. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19.  Continue all measures recommended by the CDC and Michigan Medicine to prevent spreading the virus. Continue to wear appropriate protection at work, clean your hands often, wear face coverings, and maintain 6 feet of physical distance when possible. Do not change these efforts based on your test result.

Positive serology tests are not an indication for further testing by nasal swab or other means.

Q: What does a negative test result mean?

A: A negative test result means that antibodies were not detected in your blood sample. This can have several possible meanings. Most likely it means that you have not been infected with COVID-19.

However, it could also mean that you were infected with COVID-19 but:

  • There has not been enough time for antibodies to develop; or 
  • Your body did not produce enough antibodies for the test to be able to detect them.

Q: If I test positive, is it safe for me to be around my family and others?

A: A positive test means that you likely had COVID-19 at some point in the past. Given the amount of time that has passed, you are likely no longer contagious from that infection. However, we still don’t know whether you can get COVID-19 again.

You should thus continue to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and good hand hygiene to protect yourself and others.

Q: Who can I contact if I have questions about serology testing?

A: If you have questions about serology testing, you may e-mail OHS at occupational-health@med.umich.edu. Please do not call OHS regarding serology testing.

Q: Who will get my test results?

A: Your results are confidential and will only be released to you and OHS.

Q: Will my employer get my test results?

A: No. Individual results will not be shared with your employer. Only a summary of all the results will be shared.