Steve Weddle spends his days setting up and breaking down mobile coronavirus antibodies testing sites across Oklahoma and north Texas. As a project manager for LabLik Management Group, LLC, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation member develops and modifies testing models on an almost daily basis. The Melot and Navarre family descendant has never been busier during his 11 years in laboratory services.
“What began slowly, mainly with early adopters and visionaries in leadership roles within key Oklahoma-based companies, has rapidly picked up pace due to the current spike,” Weddle said. “I receive up to five calls a day from company owners and HR partners from multiple industries, asking for more information about LabLik’s testing model.”
Coronavirus cases spiked at an all-time high in the U.S. at the beginning of July. During Congressional testimony on June 30, immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted an increase to 100,000 new cases a day in a few short months if the current pattern continues. Testing remains an important tool in diagnosing and preventing the spread of the virus.
“Knowledge is power, and the more accurate information that can be rapidly attained makes a safer workspace and home place,” Weddle said.
Different types of testing
Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 relies on polymerase chain reaction testing. Laboratory staff use the specimen collected from the back of the throat with a cotton swab to look for the presence of the antigen — the virus. A study done at John Hopkins Medicine revealed PCR testing accuracy peaks approximately three days after symptoms appear, roughly eight days after infection.
Weddle sees value in both the diagnostic and antibodies testing to slow the spread of the disease. LabLik focuses on collecting blood samples for antibodies testing, which shows the immune system’s response to the virus.
“Research has found that every infected individual tested begins to develop antibodies as early as five days from infection,” Weddle said. “Therefore, the antibody test provides an additional safeguard by detecting individuals who have become infected before they begin to have the virus in the nasal area.”
Antibodies testing depends on timing as well. The development of either immunoglobulin M or G antibodies provides insight into the approximate timetable of infection and bodily response, particularly for asymptomatic carriers. IgM antibodies indicate an initial reaction to the virus, present for two to three weeks. IgG antibodies show a potential long-term immunity from an infection for a patient, allowing for cautious optimism.
“These people can have a degree of relief and less concern for infection, although they can physically carry the virus from one person to another by mechanical means — on the hands or even clothing or shoes,” Weddle said.
LabLik across Oklahoma
While no widespread antibodies testing exists in the U.S., Weddle believes in the potential of its usefulness. LabLik projects to provide more than 5,000 tests by the end of July. Their team travels to sometimes three or four cities a week, taking blood samples in warehouses, parking lots, cubicles, conference rooms, basements — wherever. Their mobility constitutes their effectiveness.
“More employers need to provide testing in the workplace,” Weddle said. “LabLik’s services are ideal for the workplace setting, and our small footprint will not disturb daily operations. Our professional team of lab techs and phlebotomist are very skilled and fast, and we can collect both specimens in about three minutes time per employee. We bring all materials needed for the collection and can set up and tear down in less than an hour.”
Their service remains unique, but Weddle enjoys providing peace of mind to individuals and a way to help keep businesses open. The test results assist human resources departments determine if an employee should quarantine as well as establish spread patterns and protocol for the future.
“I am helping Oklahoma industry and Oklahoma workers stay alive and well. I enjoy sharing information and test results with employees and hearing the relief in their voices when they learn that they can safely return to work, friends and family,” Weddle said.
He also provides relief in his personal relationships by using a combination of knowledge from his job and hope from his religious beliefs.
“My family and friends have educated ourselves, remained vigilant, prayerful and confident that we can come out stronger than before,” Weddle said. “Sure sometimes things sound scary, but I rely on scientific methodology, statistical data and good, old fashioned faith to get me through.”
For more information on LabLik Management Group, LLC, visit facebook.com/lablikllc or email Steve Weddle at Weddlsd@gmail.com.