/ Modified may 8, 2020 5:15 p.m.

Ongoing efforts to ramp up testing as Arizona eases COVID-19 restrictions

Including an experimental treatment that collects convalescent plasma from disease survivors.

Arizona served as the backdrop when President Trump toured new N95 mask assembly lines at Honeywell in Phoenix and touted manufacturing as key to the nation’s economic revival. His visit also coincided with an announcement from Gov. Doug Ducey that more businesses could reopen in the coming days.

Ducey said certain metrics related to COVID-19 are in a downward trajectory and the state is in the process of ramping up testing for the disease. Its so-called blitz involves testing up to 60,000 Arizonans over three weekends this month. Testing locations can be found here.

Other efforts to help victims of COVID-19 include an experimental convalescent plasma program the American Red Cross is conducting in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It involves taking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients which is then used to treat people currently critically ill from the disease.

“Anything that we can help out with, maybe the sooner our country can get back to normal. Whatever normal will be,” Paula Sommers said of her decision to donate plasma in early May.

Sommers contracted COVID-19 in March, shortly after returning to Tucson from New York, which she visited with her son and his school. Sommers recovered at home in quarantine.

“I was lucky. I did have people taking care of me. I couldn’t imagine doing this on my own. I don’t think I could have made it,” Sommers said.

COVID-19 survivors who are interested in donating plasma can find more information and sign up here.

In addition to donating plasma, Sommers also participated in the University of Arizona’s antibody testing initiative, which kicked off late last month and eventually aims to test 250,000 health care workers and first responders statewide. The program’s first phase tested 3,000 people in Pima County and wrapped this week. People interested in signing up as testing gradually expands should check the program's website for updates.

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