Essential employees wanted

Employees who are the most likely to contract the coronavirus, from first responders to bank tellers, are being recruited to take a free weekly COVID-19 test at home to help researchers at the University of Arizona study the virus. 

There’s little involved in participating but much at stake, said Professor Jefferey Burgess, Associate Dean for Research in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Jefferey Burgess

“All of these essential employees — health care workers, first responders, corrections officers and other essential workers — work with either patients, the public or closely with each other, and therefore, if they’re infected, they need to know so they can protect their patients, their co-workers, the public and their families,” said Burgess.

First study to test all workers who deal with public  

The testing is part of the Arizona Healthcare, Emergency Response, and Other Essential Workers Surveillance (AZ HEROES) project. It is funded with a $7.7 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and is in conjunction with the university’s statewide Antibody Testing Initiative.

It is the largest CDC study of its kind with a target of 4,000 participants statewide, Burgess said, and the first to focus on all essential employees, not just first responders and healthcare workers. 

Project seeks to better understand immunity and reinfection

The goal is to better understand immunity and reinfection, Burgess said.

Antibody testing in Winslow, AZ

“We know a lot more than we used to but not answers to some very important questions like, if you get it once, will you get it again? And if you do, will it be the same as, worse or less severe than the first time?” he said. “We also want to know how long the duration of immunity lasts from when you get it the first time to when you get it the second time.”

Among the project goals are to monitor how COVID-19 is impacting companies and help employers find the best protocols to reduce the spread. 

Employees who have tested positive or negative wanted

Essential employees who have tested either positive or negative for COVID-19 are encouraged to participate. Test results will be kept private, but any employees who test positive are encouraged to alert their employer and take appropriate precautions. 

Those who are accepted will do free at-home testing with nasal swabs once a week for nine months. They also will be given three antibody tests during that time.  

Call to businesses statewide 

Project officials are calling on businesses to inform employees about the project. Speakers are also available to make presentations to work groups. 

For anyone interested in participating there are three options to contact the project:

Employees who work with the public in these professions are needed for the study:

  • Health care 
  • First responders including corrections officers  
  • Food service, agriculture  
  • Public and other transportation services  
  • Solid waste collection  
  • Warehouse and delivery 
  • Utilities  
  • Government and community-based services 
  • Childcare 
  • Group homes, day programs and disability programs 
  • IT professionals 
  • Environmental services, facilities managers
  • Educators
  • Front-line financial workers like bank tellers
  • Hospitality 

Victoria Harker

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