ST. JOSEPH — The general public can now get a COVID-19 antibody test through Spectrum Health Lakeland, the hospital system announced in a news release Tuesday.

A physician’s order is needed to obtain the test.

Spectrum Health has the capacity to do up to 1,000 antibody tests per day, with results available within about 24 hours.

“We know there are likely many people in our community who have been previously exposed to the virus and never received a test,” said Joe Brown, director of laboratory services at Spectrum Health Lakeland, in the release. “We hope through antibody testing we will be able to further understand how the disease spreads in our community and who it has affected.”

The antibody, or serology, test is a blood test designed to detect a previous COVID-19 infection through the presence of disease-fighting antibodies.

Spectrum Health Lakeland is offering a two-tiered test, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which targets the IgG antibody specific to the virus that causes COVID-19. This test improves accuracy by confirming results using two different mechanisms, according to the release.

It is recommended that people should get an antibody test only after it has been 10 or more days since the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. This might include the 188 people since March that the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) has presumed have had COVID-19, but have not had a confirming diagnostic test.

The antibody test, available at all Spectrum Health Lakeland laboratories, is not restricted to a specific patient population but does require an order from a doctor or advanced practice provider.

Anyone who would like an antibody test should contact their health care provider. The cost of the test is $45 and should be covered by most insurance plans, according to the news release. Once the test is ordered, patients will need to schedule an appointment with a Lakeland lab by calling 556-2810.

In addition, Spectrum Health Lakeland cautions that the presence of antibodies does not mean with certainty that you are immune from contracting COVID-19, nor does it support easing behaviors such as social distancing, wearing a face mask and regularly washing your hands, according to the release.

The antibody test is not intended to replace a diagnostic COVID-19 test.

Testing

In addition, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced expanded diagnostic COVID-19 testing Tuesday.

“The more that get tested the better,” she said during an afternoon news conference.

Those who would like to be tested should call their doctor; contact one of the four testing sites in Berrien County; or call the state’s COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136, or visit www.michigan.gov/coronavirus.

To be tested by Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph, call 833-559-0659; to be tested by InterCare in Benton Harbor, call 855-869-6900; to be tested by Rite Aid in Bridgman, visit www.riteaid.com; and to be tested by Walmart in Benton Township, visit www.MyQuestCOVIDTest.com.

Count update

Last week was the deadliest for Berrien County so far during the coronavirus pandemic.

The BCHD reported 14 COVID-19 deaths since last Tuesday. In previous weeks, the county has had about five or six deaths in a week.

Berrien County now has 47 deaths, with five deaths reported on Tuesday.

The deaths were that of one man in his 70s, one woman in her 80s, two men in their 80s, and one women in her 90s, all with multiple underlying medical conditions.

All of Berrien County’s deaths have been people over the age of 40, with 29 of them age 80 or older, according to the county’s data dashboard. Of the 47 deaths, 23 have been women and 24 have been men; and 27 have been white, 17 have been black and one was hispanic/Latino.

There are now 595 cumulative cases in Berrien County, an addition of 24 cases since Friday and 58 since last Tuesday. The week prior, the county added 127 cases.

The county is now at 406 recoveries, a gain of 38 since Friday and 70 since last Tuesday. The prior week, the county added 85 recoveries.

With the recoveries and deaths, there are now about 142 confirmed active COVID-19 cases in Berrien County, 19 less than on Friday. Last Tuesday there were about 186 active cases.

Berrien County is at 188 presumed positive COVID-19 cases, six less than Friday and one less than last Tuesday.

Spectrum Health Lakeland was treating 16 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday afternoon, with four of those in the intensive care unit. That’s five less than were hospitalized Friday and nine less than were hospitalized last Tuesday.

Van Buren County is now at 126 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 10 cases from last Tuesday and six from Friday. The county has six deaths and 41 recoveries.

Cass County is now at 78 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 17 cases from last Tuesday and five from Friday. The county has two deaths and 24 recoveries.

Local COVID-19 numbers and information can be found at www.bchdmi.org, and at www.vbcassdhd.org/covid-19. For state numbers, visit www.michigan.gov/coronavirus.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman