ANNAPOLIS — Governor Larry Hogan Monday, Sept. 21, announced that state health officials are conducting a COVID-19 serology testing study for all professional and volunteer firefighters in Maryland. This initiative, currently active in seven jurisdictions, is a key part of the Maryland Department of Health’s ongoing statewide COVID-19 antibody study to determine how many Marylanders have been exposed to COVID-19.

“Our firefighters are on the front lines of emergency response, which greatly increases their risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Hogan said. “Serology testing helps our health officials determine the prevalence of the virus, so we can have a better idea about how to prevent transmission and help protect our essential workforce.”

Serology testing is not diagnostic, but uses a blood sample to look for antibodies made in response to a previous COVID-19 infection. Since Sept. 15, Frederick County and the City of Annapolis have submitted more than 650 serologic samples from their firefighting forces, yielding a 1.9 percent positivity rate. Five other jurisdictions—Prince George’s County, Worcester County, Salisbury, Fort Detrick, and BWI Station—have received or requested testing supplies.

“We’re working closely with all of our local jurisdictions to continue to bring them into this initiative,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “More participation not only increases the reach of our study, but also provides valuable insight about the prevalence of COVID-19 among our first responders and the communities they serve.”

Participants receive serology testing and diagnostic kits, sample collection supplies, logistical services to deliver supplies and pick up samples, and sample collection training. The test consists of a blood draw to produce samples, which are sent to the State Public Health Laboratory for analysis. The lab processes the samples and provides results, typically within 24 hours.

The initiative is the result of collaboration between MDH and the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland of the International Association of Fire Fighters. MDH plans to expand the free antibody testing initiative to include all first responders in the coming months.

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