Company working to get thousands of rapid COVID-19 blood tests to Atlanta

A local company is now working to import hundreds of thousands of the tests.

ATLANTA — Just days ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved a different kind of test for COVID-19 -- a blood test instead of a nasal swab.

Now, a local company is working to bring hundreds of thousands of those tests here to the U.S.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Justin Gray was in Alpharetta, where he was able to take one of the tests, which is a finger prick, much like a blood sugar test. The result looks like a pregnancy test.

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Gray waited 15 minutes to find out there was no sign of the novel coronavirus in his blood.

Johns Creek business Leaftip Technology is now importing an FDA-approved brand of the tests. They are working with major employers to roll out testing for employees.

"You need quick testing and you need cheap testing," Michael Chalkley with Leaftip Technologies said. "We can provide both with this test."

The $10 tests are different than the molecular tests used right now in hospitals and for official public health counts. The blood tests can show not just if you have the virus, but if you ever had it. Chalkley said they can do about 1,000 tests in a single location in a day.

What they can't do is show if you are in the first two days of a COVID-19 infection because your body takes about two days to develop antibodies to the illness.

"We should understand it for what it is and not assume it's providing the same kind of accurate information as the nasal swab," Chalkley said.

Gray spoke to John Auberach, a former top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now head of the Trust For America's Health. He said the blood tests, because of their speed and low cost, can fill an important gap.

“It could potentially be used to give a greater understanding of how widespread coronavirus is within a community and leave the nasal swabs specifically for people who have symptoms,” Auberach said.

It's important to point out that the FDA has not approved any tests for at-home use. If you see that advertised anywhere, don't trust it.

Auberach said the big value with the blood tests is they can show who has been exposed, but has built up immunity, which may allow health care workers to get back on the job faster.

This week, the U.S. passed other countries in the number of coronavirus tests completed. The U.S. is now testing at a rate of nearly 100,000 a day.

Georgia now has plans to dramatically increase testing in the coming days.