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Donations double, triple when Blood Connection offers COVID-19 antibody test

Posted May 11, 2020 11:05 a.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2020 5:42 p.m. EDT

— If you’re wondering if you have been exposed to coronavirus, you can find out for free by donating blood.

Anyone who donates blood to The Blood Connection will receive a free COVID-19 antibody test on top of helping others.

The antibody test is free and will be drawn from the donation, and donors will find out the results within seven business days.

The tests will be available to anyone who successfully donates blood, plasma or platelets, with results arriving in about seven days, according to The Blood Connection.

In the first 24 hours, The Blood Connection on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh saw donor visits almost triple – up 188% from a typical Tuesday. For 10 centers around the Triangle, donor appointments were double.

A positive antibody tests does not confirm someone is infected with COVID-19, and it does not mean the donor is immune to the virus, health officials say. Someone who tests positive for the antibodies might be able to fight off the virus better than others, but it doesn't guarantee they won't be infected again.

“I kind of look at it like we’ve all been drafted in this war and the least we can do is give blood," said blood donor Todd Vangundy. "I’m not being asked to fight in another land or anything, just do a little bit wear a mask, the three W's and donate some blood. That’s not asking too much.”

The TBC will have sites open and every day and has blood drives scheduled in Raleigh, Cary, Garner, Knightdale and Louisburg. Donors are encouraged to register for a time slot online to help staff maintain social distancing during appointments.

“If there’s a way we can serve our community in another way, why wouldn’t we do that?" said The Blood Connection spokesperson Allie Van Dyke. "And that’s exactly what we’re doing because we didn’t have to change much on our end we already take blood donations, we already take test tubes, we have a hospital partner who is willing to help us out.”

Walk-ins are welcome but organizers suggest making an appointment as they anticipate an increase in donors over the next few weeks.

Appointments can be made at thebloodconnection.org. Results of the antibody tests will show up on donors' online portals within seven business days of the donation.

TBC is also offering free antibody tests in South Carolina and Georgia.

The Red Cross is currently only doing antibody tests for those who have been diagnosed. ​

The General Assembly is funding a COVID-19 prevalence study. So far, 7,000 people have enrolled, and the first results were reported May 8.

The study, based at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, asks people to check in daily with any symptoms they may have. It's also mailing tests to determine whether people have developed antibodies to the coronavirus – a sign they've been exposed to it and may now be immune.

Researchers said that they've sent out 1,475 test kits and gotten results for 676. Antibodies were present in 2.2 percent, a result researchers said was "preliminary and should not be fully extrapolated to the broader population at this time, but certainly suggests a low seroprevalence in the Triad region."

"Seroprevalence" means how common the virus is, based on blood tests.

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