As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow around the nation, the University of Arizona is taking drastic steps in order to increase testing and keep Arizona’s general public as safe as possible.
The UA has recently started to expand its capabilities for the antibody test. They are taking blood samples from those who have recovered from COVID-19 in hopes of analyzing who has antibodies to fight off the disease. These antibodies are proteins that have many capabilities but are primarily used as the body's way of fighting off foreign pathogens, including viruses.
In order to analyze these antibodies, the blood samples must be examined at a microscopic scale but with a very large sample. In order to correctly and accurately do the testing, the UA will do testing in phases in hopes of getting the best possible outcomes.
The first phase started on April 30 and covered 3,000 first responders and healthcare workers. The UA also hopes to test its 45,000 students and 15,000 employees, especially if classes are in-person for the fall semester.
"With separate funding, approximately 1,500 members of the general public in Pima County, including university students currently residing on campus or in the county, also will be tested to provide a measure of comparison to the health care worker and first responder groups," according to a press release.
It is important to note that this mass production of antibody testing will not screen a patient for having an active infection of COVID-19, but rather it will test their blood to see whether antibodies are present or not. If this novel coronavirus behaves like most other viruses, then a patient who has antibodies has a high chance of having some level of immunity toward the disease.
UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins hopes the mass testing will be able to pinpoint which people have the antibodies to fend off the virus. Robbins is in the midst of deciding whether or not classes will be in-person for the fall semester and recently created a task force to help with the important decision.
To sign up for a free antibody blood test through the UA, visit their website.
Follow Vivek Aking on Twitter