Muriel gets swab test for Covid antigens

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS –  First Call, the First Avenue business that has been providing coronavirus decontamination services, is now also offering  COVID-19 Testing Center located at 68 First Avenue. The Rapid Antigen Test is quick easy, painless and administered under strict safety and health considerations in a spacious testing suite at the back of the facility.

The new service, which is available through registration online, offers a text message notification of the rest results within ten minutes of taking the test. It also sends an email showing a photo of the completed test and handles all the data flow including reporting the results to the CDC to state health officials.  And, as an added bonus, each patients is also given a MagiCare Safety Kit as a reminder of their visit, each kit containing  safety masks, disinfecting wipes, gloves and a hand sanitizer.

First Call is strict and careful in every phase of the procedure. Once you make your appointment and pay online, you receive an immediate confirmation giving the date and time and location for test to avoid any confusion. The confirmation also directs you to sign in at the front of the building in Suite A, where you’ll be given a mask and escorted to the testing room.

The testing room is spacious, with the ability to handle four patients at a time, all equally distanced and every chair wiped down between each patient.  The test is fully FDA authorized and made in New Jersey. EMTs from the borough’s emergency services ward are the men and women administering the tests.

Maria Barquero, a local EMT with seven years’ experience, was on duty at the facility this week. She assured the area was newly wiped down and administered the test while wearing both a mask and a face shield. Barquero pointed out the importance of testing both for public safety and for the feeling of comfort it gives some residents.

“These aren’t the only reasons why people want these tests,” said First Call owner Dave Wickersham, a veteran in the business. Many businesses require testing before enabling their workers to come back to work, people traveling or visiting with family want assurances they are negative before being with others, and it is could be valuable tool in the future. “Once the vaccine is available and administered, prior Covid tests will be able to provide a baseline for future study and information,” Wickersham said.

Cost for the rapid test is $75 when reservations are made other than that same day appointment, with same day appointment available at $99. Wickersham said while currently First Call does not accept insurance for  the rapid test, he is hopeful of securing that by the beginning of next month.  And he suggests to each patient they submit their receipt for the service to their own insurance companies in the possibility they may be covered.

Appointments are booked through the website at Online prompts enable users to access the necessary areas for scheduling an appointment and paying by credit card online.  Upon arrival at the front of the facility, persons are checked in, and directed to comfortable exam chairs for a  swab test by an EMT.  The EMT then administers the CLIA waived test and confirms  custody of the test by patient initials. The test cassette is passed to an administrator who conducts a QA/QC check and logs the results.  The patient then gets an immediate  text message notifying them of their result along with the email showing a picture of the completed test.

The tests administered at First Call have a very high specificity and accuracy rate, one of the most accurate tests available in this format today.  However, persons exhibiting any symptoms of Covid and still testing negative on the Rapid Test are given the immediate opportunity get an additional test at the same site, for an additional fee, to ensure accuracy.   This test, known as the PCR Molecular Test is the “gold standard” of testing and is processed at a CLIA certified laboratory.  Results can take a number of days to return in other venues, but with First Call’s contract with national CLIA lab headquartered in Virginia, they can return results in 24 to 48 hours.  This lab is capable of handling 100,000 PCR tests per day, the most for any laboratory in the country, and they are licensed in all 50 states.

Wickersham said while there are other test sites around, First Call’s ability to provide 10-minute results in a  clean and comfortable testing center while keeping the price comparatively low price compared to offer similar testing sites, make this a  preferred location.  The “pop-up” testing center is also indoors, a nice benefit to the out-door centers with long lines in the cold.  The rapid test and it administration has the required waiver certificate from the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) which propagates standards for certain laboratory testing to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of test results. Requirements for certification are based on the complexity of the test and the type of laboratory where the testing is performed.       

First Call also continues to provide coronavirus cleaning services to businesses of any size, as well as schools, churches and other public buildings. They also  provide mobile testing services direct to businesses at their site and continues to offer free testing to the borough’s police, firemen and EMTs.

For more information and to register for the test, visit

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...