University of Arizona studies frontline worker COVID-19 immunity

Recruiting for AZ HEROES study

AZ Heroes study

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is finding out how long COVID-19 immunity lasts among first responders, healthcare and essential workers and their rate of getting the virus again through the AZ HEROES study.

“We want to understand how frequently they get sick, how severe that sickness is and the effectiveness of interventions they’ve put in place," said Dr. Jeff Burgess, the lead investigator for the study.

Interventions include face coverings and hand washing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chose the U of A due to its widespread antibody testing that will help in the research. The university was given $7.7 million to conduct the study.

Burgess said the study will include frontline workers such as grocery store employees, restaurant workers, bus drivers and many others. They hope to discover the length of time a person is immune before getting the virus again. The study is accepting previously and newly infected people who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies with a goal of about 4,000 participants.

“We were one of few sites that were looking at health care workers, first responders and essential workers." he said. "That was different than other CDC sites that tended to be focused predominantly on healthcare workers.”

Burgess said about 40% of people are asymptomatic and the percentage among frontline workers might be higher. Participants will know if and when they’re infected through weekly nasal swab COVID-19 tests.

“If they are sick then they can take steps to protect their families, co-workers and the public- so that’s a really significant benefit to this study," he said.

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