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Mission to get antibody tests for 5,000 first responders

Posted at 7:29 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 22:44:24-04

PHOENIX — It's a mission to get 5,000 Valley first responders coronavirus antibody tests.

The United Phoenix Firefighters Association and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association are helping their members get those tests.

This week, the focus was on testing firefighters. Next week, they'll transition to testing police officers.

"You never know what you're showing up to. Every shift is different."

Especially during a pandemic.

Phoenix Firefighter Mike Johnson has been with the department for 14 years and says they're doing everything they can to minimize their risk of contracting the coronavirus, like wearing masks on calls and deep-cleaning their equipment.

But that's not the only way our firefighters are able to protect themselves.

All week, the parking lot at the Phoenix Fire Academy has been transformed into a mass drive-thru testing facility for coronavirus antibodies.

The goal is to test 5,000 first responders. There are a total of three sites that typically test 200 first responders per day, according to P.J. Dean with the United Phoenix Firefighters Association.

"We wanted to come up with a way to test a large amount of first responders quickly and efficiently but we also didn't want to create a new opportunity to create potential exposure," says Dean.

First responders drive in and get their temperatures checked and get checked for any symptoms. From there, they move onto the test line where they get a finger-stick blood test and find out their results in 10 minutes.

"This will give us the ability to really kind of see what the impact is to the virus has been on our population of first responders. We risk ourselves.
That's what we do. It does create some anxiety because afterward, after you've done your job, you worry about how I've been impacted am I going to take this home to my family? Am I spreading this at my stations?"

"I think it's definitely a step in the right direction," explains Johnson. He says he was disappointed to find out his antibody results came back negative because he was hoping to be able to donate plasma to help coronavirus patients recover.

"Not only helping on the frontline, but any way we can get involved and help out."

It's a hero mentality these brave men and women always embody, on the job and off.

The tests are made possible by the Phoenix Suns Charities as well as Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona and Vincere Cancer Center.

The hope is that the results can be studied and give doctors more insight on how first responders are impacted by this pandemic.