Two Friends Patio Restaurant owner Danny Hughes, left, tests negative for COVID-19 antibodies with a rapid-result test administered by Dr. Bruce Boros of Advanced Urgent Care. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

A Key West partnership is finalizing plans to roll out a massive effort to test thousands of residents for COVID-19 and the associated antibodies that provide evidence of a past infection.

Key West’s One Clean Island committee, in partnership with Dr. Bruce Boros and Advanced Urgent Care, performed 10 preliminary rapid-result, finger-stick antibody tests on Monday afternoon, April 27, at Two Friends Patio Restaurant.

Jim Gilleran of One Clean Island receives an antibody test from Dr. Bruce Boros of Advanced Urgent Care as part of a preliminary plan to roll out massive testing capabilities in Key West. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

The more widespread, massive testing effort is expected to launch in the coming weeks, depending on how long it takes to receive thousands of test kits, and establish locations, said Jim Gilleran, a founding member of One Clean Island.

All 10 people tested, including County Commissioner Craig Cates; restaurant owners Danny and Maura Hughes; Robert Spottswood, Jr.; Jim Gilleran (and Key West Weekly editor Mandy Miles), tested negative for COVID-19 antibodies.

“The next step will be for Dr. Boros to do the same test on 10 people who are known to have had the virus in order to confirm the validity of the test,” Danny Hughes said. 

Robert Spottswood, Jr. ‘gives the finger’ to COVID-19 during a rapid-result antibody test. Mass testing efforts are expected to begin in Key West in the coming weeks. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

The One Clean Island committee sponsored the first round of test kits and is now working on securing a much larger order of 10,000 or so kits and establishing multiple testing sites for Key West residents.

“Hopefully, that will be done through a public-private partnership for the massive testing effort,” Boros said. “These testing capabilities will allow us to have specific knowledge about our population and eventually our arriving visitors, once we open the Keys.”

“The sooner, the better, as long as it’s safe,” Craig Cates added. “We have to get people back to work.”

County Commissioner Craig Cates tests negative for virus antibodies. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

The testing sites would remain active after visitors are allowed to return to the Keys and would be able to test visitors who have symptoms as well as the people in their travel group to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus, Boros said.

If the antibody test comes back positive for an active infection, that result would be confirmed with a nasal swab test, Boros added.

Boros acknowledged the efforts by Walgreens nationwide to offer testing, but pointed out that those results take a few days to obtain, and “the results are entered into a nationwide database rather than a specified county database that will help officials know and track specifics about our population here in Monroe County.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.