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UArizona, Arizona to start COVID-19 antibody large-scale testing

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TUCSON - Gov. Doug Ducey and University of Arizona President Robert Robbins announced a partnership on Tuesday to provide antibody tests for 250,000 health care professionals and first responders in Arizona.

With this partnership, Arizona will become the first state to do statewide antibody testing for healthcare professionals and first responders.

Once up and running, they're expecting to do 5,000 tests per day.

This test will measure a persons immunity to the virus by checking if they have the antibodies necessary to fight it.

"This test is the next wave around the country which is antibody testing, which does really determine if you have been exposed and mounted an immune response to the COVID-19 infection," said Dr. Michael Dake, senior vice president of UArizona Health Services.

UArizona Health Services expects this group of people to have a significantly higher antibody rate since they are treating patients with the coronavirus.

However, because this is a rapidly evolving situation, they'll have to adapt as they go.

"When do you test your frontline healthcare workers and let's say that 20 percent of them are exposed to the virus, when do you retest them?," said Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich, head of University of Arizona's Immunobiology Department.

"That's another issue, you know, that this is going to be something dynamic so a lot of these things will have to be adjusted as we go," said Nikolich-Zugich.

The test is a simple blood draw that will be sent to the lab and will be given free of charge.

UArizona is working on a network of locations for frontline workers to go to.

Depending on the results of this method, expanding the testing availability to the general public won't be ruled out.

"I see this as the phase one," said Dake. "Obviously, it has the potential to really inform going forward what we might wanna do with the rest of the citizens."

Large scale testing is targeted to start May 1.

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Mark Mingura

Mark Mingura joined KVOA as a Multi Media Journalist in October 2019. Originally from the valley and with ties to Tucson, Mark is excited to get back to his home state and tell the stories of the Old Pueblo.

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