AUSTIN, Texas - Blood drives like one in Georgetown Friday are always important because there is always a need, but now an even greater need is being met.
Everyone who donates through We Are Blood, will be screened for COVID 19 antibodies.
“We think offering anti-body testing free of charge for all We Are Blood donors is a game-changer in our community’s fight against COVID-19,” said Nick Canedo with We Are Blood.
In April, We Are Blood started working with people who knew they had the virus and had recovered from it. The plasma collected then treated about 1,500 COVID-19 patients in Central Texas. The plasma is not being used for vaccine development, but only to treat those sick with the virus. Since October 28th when the new program started, 2,000 donors have been tested for antibodies.
“It means that anybody who is asymptomatic, may not have known they had COVID19 and has developed the antibodies, and now can help a patient in need in Central Texas, by becoming a Convalescent Plasma Donor,” said Canedo.
Army National Guard General Charles Schoening gave blood Friday. He knows what it's like to be on the front line in a war. He has also been part of the State’s COVID-19 response plan. The General has never tested positive for the virus, but Friday he essentially signed up for another mission.
That’s the great part of it, now anybody can, if they’ve been exposed to this in the past, if they have those antibodies, they can actually be part of this program, helping other people,” said Schoening.
About a week after donating blood, test results are posted on personal information pages called a Donor Portal. Only those with high levels are immediately contacted. “Right now the demand from physicians for COVID-19 patients is Convalescent Plasma with high levels of antibodies,” said Canedo.
If someone tested positive but was not contacted because levels were not high enough, they can still volunteer for the program. “We will work with them one on one, to see if a donation is appropriate, but they can call us, and we do recommend getting in touch with us,” said Canedo.
A wider call up for those who test positive for antibodies could come if there is a substantial surge in COVID-19 cases. But finding the antibodies may now be easier than finding blood donation sites; like this one at the Georgetown Recreation Center.
We Are Blood is covering all the costs for the testing right now. Officials with the organization will go before the Williamson County Commission on Tuesday requesting funding assistance with the testing program. Travis County Commissioners will also be voting Tuesday on the possibility of making funding available.