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Staff photo by Tim Barber / Dade County Executive Ted Rumley works in his office in Trenton, Georgia, on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.

Three county commissioners in Dade County took COVID-19 antibody tests this week and found out they all had the virus earlier this year.

Ted Rumley, chairman of the Dade County Commission, said he and commissioner Allan Bradford were tested at the Ready Clinic in LaFayette to see if they had contracted the virus in the past.

The "rapid screen" antibody tests are not meant to serve as an official diagnosis of a COVID-19 infection but are designed to detect antibodies, the proteins that signal an immune response and are used to determine past infection.

Both Rumley and Bradford tested positive for the antibodies. When they got word, they told commissioner Lamar Lowery to get tested. He did so later in the afternoon and his results came back positive as well.

Rumley said he had flu-like symptoms in February. He felt sick for about three weeks and took a couple of days off work as his fever came down.

Rumley compared the symptoms to emphysema. He had a cough, fever and felt a lot of congestion in his lungs, something he had never had problems with before. He also had a flu shot in October and figured he wouldn't test positive for the flu.

Rumley's doctor gave him Zithromax or a Z-Pak, which didn't help, and he tested negative for the flu and strep throat.

Rumley said he would have been "worried to death" about his illness if he had been sick in March or April but didn't think much about it before the virus started to spread in the U.S.

Once cases started to increase across the country, Rumley thought it was possible that he had the coronavirus in February. He suspected so, as he learned cases could have been in the U.S. as early as November.

Rumley said his wife also tested positive for the antibodies. However, everyone in his office at the commission building who has had the antibody test came back negative, which he took as a good sign.

Rumley was told by health officials that he is not contagious and he and the other commissioners could continue to operate normally.

Antibody tests have been touted as one tool to help reopen the U.S. economy, although their accuracy has been called into question.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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