Phoenix firefighters pleased with low number of positive antibody tests

May 1, 2020, 11:30 AM | Updated: May 6, 2020, 9:47 am
phoenix firefighters masks...
(KTAR News Photo/Ali Vetnar)
(KTAR News Photo/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX – Only about 20 firefighters who took part in a metro Phoenix first responder testing program had coronavirus antibodies in their systems.

The results, which were made public Friday, were a pleasant surprise, according to P.J. Dean of the United Phoenix Firefighters Union.

“Much less than we’d originally anticipated,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM, “and it could very well [be construed] as a positive thing in the sense that it means that our protective equipment is working, our policies are working, we’re doing a good job of keeping ourselves safe on our calls but at the same time providing a vital service that is essential to our community.”

The presence of antibodies means a person was previously infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and didn’t have symptoms or has recovered from the illness.

People with coronavirus antibodies may have developed some level of immunity, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that hasn’t yet been scientifically confirmed.

Scottsdale Dr. Vershalee Shukla, who ran the testing program, said about 1,500 firefighters were tested.

She encouraged them to continue following the protocols that have kept them safe from the virus.

“Keep wearing your PPE (personal protective equipment),” she told KTAR News. “I know it’s hot and it’s hard wearing those masks, but it’s preventing infections.”

Shukla will also be doing antibody testing for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

“We’re really curious to know what’s going to happen with the police officers,” Dean said. “Are we going to see a higher number of their antibodies present because they just operate a little differently than we do? …

“They don’t always have the ability to protect themselves the way we do.”

The firefighter and police antibody testing was made possible thanks to a $40,000 donation from Phoenix Suns Charities.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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Phoenix firefighters pleased with low number of positive antibody tests