‘Get Tested.’ Local Testing Lab Exec Loses Father to COVID-19

My Labs Direct founder Justin Simons with Emmitt Smith (Courtesy: MLD)
My Labs Direct founder Justin Simons with Emmitt Smith (Courtesy: MLD)

For My Labs Direct founder Justin Simons, the confirmation that his father had COVID-19 came too late. The tragic irony that he leads a company that tests for COVID-19 while his parents resisted getting tested after experiencing symptoms is not lost on him. 

Even before his father fell ill, the company paired up with Dallas Cowboys Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith, who has been part of vaccination and testing efforts in North Texas throughout the year, including making an appearance with First Lady Jill Biden at a Dallas ISD school earlier this year to push vaccination efforts. He is also part of MLD’s “Got Antibodies?” campaign. 

“You don’t want to see anyone die when you know it could have been prevented,” said Emmitt Smith via release. “For a guy who travels as much as I do and is around as many people as I am, I test often. Testing saves lives. It allows the battle to be won before it is even fought. I believe if we all do the right thing by testing, we can put COVID behind us.” 

Simons’ parents started experiencing symptoms earlier this fall but didn’t get tested right away. Being out of state, it was difficult for Simons to just walk one over to his parents, so their symptoms worsened, and they didn’t get any treatment. “Justin tests hundreds of thousands of people for COVID, but he just couldn’t get through to his own family. It’s really very sad,” says Kristen Marsh, the chief strategy officer at MLD, who gave me the update on Simons’ family. 

The loss of a family member has only strengthened Simons’ resolve to get more people tested. The company has been the testing provider for Baylor University’s football team and will be part of the school’s appearance in the upcoming Sugar Bowl. MLD is also launching a mobile testing concierge and virtual monitoring of test results. This is a service where MLD will walk an individual through the testing process at home to ensure they are doing it correctly. Verified negative tests are becoming more necessary for returning to school, work, or travel. They eventually got tested, but it was too late to get treatment to prevent hospitalization. His mother went into the hospital for antibody treatment while his father insisted that the providers focus on his mother. Simons’ mother fully recovered, but his father worsened quickly and died just a few days later. “Regardless of how you feel about the vaccine, if he just tested earlier, he would be okay,” Marsh says. 

Though omicron may temper many in-person events, many companies are returning to the office. People are more likely to attend a concert or large gathering through the holidays and into the new year than they were a year ago. MLD has been in contact with weddings, sports teams, and employers to up their testing regimen as they return to gathering. 

Early research shows that the omicron variant is up to three times as contagious as delta and that breakthrough cases are expected. Testing paired with vaccination is the best option for preventing the spread. Vaccination and booster shots are effective at preventing hospitalization, but cases are still increasing at an alarming rate in South Africa and the UK. “Vaccination is a great step in protecting yourself, but you absolutely can still get COVID If you’re vaccinated, and then you also can still transmit it to somebody else,” Marsh says. “The No. 1 thing is testing and educating yourself so you can make good healthcare choices for you and not come in contact with anyone else.”

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