The COVID-19 pandemic has consumed our national attention, and that is no surprise as it is affecting nearly everyone’s life to a great degree. While most people are trying to see the bright side of things, most also are worried about their health and financial health.
Much of the news involves when America will get back closer to normal. Tied to that is speculation about a decline in spread of the disease and who has immunity, with the possibility of a vaccination further in the future. Immunity involves more questions about to what degree and how long.
Weighing in on the latter issue is University of Arizona President Robert Robbins, who is a medical doctor. UA, which is a state institution with a medical school and has worked with coronaviruses for decades, has received $3.5 million from the state to produce antibody tests for first responders and health care workers. Robbins announced last week that he wants all UA students, faculty and staff to be tested as well, about 60,000 people, funded by private donations. That will help the university to manage the situation when classes resume and also provide information for health researchers.
Robbins, who said he believes that a quarter million people could be tested per month in Arizona, said that would start by May 1 or earlier. He cited studies that show that with MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome — (beginning in 2012) those recovering were protected for about a year. For SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome (beginning in the early 2000s) — there was about three years of protection. COVID-19 is different, but Robbins’ reference provides some context and seems to indicate that there will indeed be some protection, but it won’t be forever.
As the economic impact spreads, becomes more dire and now obviously is affecting state and local government budgets, discussion is focusing on restarting the economy. UA’s efforts on testing immunity are an important part of that effort.