Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's economy won't reopen anytime soon, despite frantic CEO whispers, but a glimmer of hope may be emerging in the form of serological testing.

Why it matters: Serologic tests aren't to determine whether or not you're infected with coronavirus. They are to determine if you have potential immunity that could allow you to safely return to work.

How it works, per Axios' Alison Snyder and Eileen Drage O'Reilly:

  • When the body is exposed to a virus, the immune system begins to produce antibodies to fight the virus and future infections from it.
  • Those antibodies stick around after the virus is cleared from the body, making them an indicator of past infection.
  • Serological tests check the blood for these antibodies — providing confirmation of infection and possible protection.

Driving the news: Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a New Jersey company that the Carlyle Group carved out of Johnson & Johnson in 2014, is beginning mass production of serologic tests that will be able to be run on the company's already-installed analyzers in more than 1,000 U.S. hospital and reference labs.

  • Each instrument is expected to be able to process 150 tests per hour.
  • A source familiar with the situation says that Ortho is ramping up production now and by the end of April expects to be making 500,000 tests per week (initially via its Rochester, New York, manufacturing facility). By May, it plans to be at 1 million tests produced per week.
  • Early testing work will be done in partnership with Creative Testing Solutions, a nonprofit blood donor testing lab owned by the American Red Cross, OneBlood, and Vitalant.

But, but, but: It is not yet 100% certain that people with the antibodies will be immune, particularly if the virus mutates, or how long any immunity would last. So far, the optimism is a highly educated guess.

The bottom line: People are unlikely to work or shop while still fearful of getting sick, even if politicians remove shelter-in-place orders. Serologic tests at scale, from Ortho and hopefully from others, could be the safety blanket that warms our economic engine.

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.
1 hour ago - Podcasts

House antitrust chair talks USA vs. Google

The Justice Department filed a 63-page antitrust lawsuit against Google related to the tech giant's search and advertising business. This comes just weeks after the House subcommittee on antitrust issued its own scathing report on Google and other Big Tech companies, arguing they've become digital monopolies.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the subcommittee on antitrust, about Google, the DOJ's lawsuit and Congress' next move.

2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Boeing research shows disinfectants kill virus on airplanes

Electrostatic spraying of disinfectant. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Boeing and researchers at the University of Arizona say their experiment with a live virus on an unoccupied airplane proves that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective in destroying the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Deep cleaning aircraft between flights is one of many tactics the airline industry is using to try to restore public confidence in flying during the pandemic. The researchers say their study proves there is virtually no risk of transmission from touching objects including armrests, tray tables, overhead bins or lavatory handles on a plane.