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Donors to Receive Free COVID-19 Antibody Testing at Charleston Community Blood Drive

Donors to Receive Free COVID-19 Antibody Testing at Charleston Community Blood Drive

CHARLESTON, S.C. (JUNE 4, 2020) – A month after the announcement of The Blood Connection’s COVID-19 antibody testing program, The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Summerville Medical Center, and Trident Medical Center are partnering with The Blood Connection (TBC) for a large community blood drive at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center (5001 Coliseum Drive). The drive is set for Thursday, June 11, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m inside the Performing Arts Center. Those who complete a blood donation at this drive will receive free COVID-19 antibody testing.

In partnership with MUSC Health, TBC began offering COVID-19 antibody testing to all donors at no cost in May. This partnership is an extension of the antibody testing efforts underway throughout MUSC Health, including first responders, health care workers and the larger local community. The test, which will provide blood donors with a positive or negative result in seven business days, will be included in the normal panel of testing that is done to all complete blood donations collected by the organization. Donors do not need to opt in to this testing. TBC wants to ensure that all donors are aware that this is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19 infection. The FDA and the CDC have both said that a positive antibody test result does not prove the individual has immunity to the virus and that research of the antibodies is still being conducted.

Satish Nadig, M.D., medical director for the MUSC Center for Cellular Therapy, said MUSC is highly confident in its test because of extensive validation conducted before it began offering the tests. “These antibody tests show whether people have long-term antibodies to COVID-19, meaning they were exposed to the novel coronavirus and their bodies mounted an immune response,” he said. “What constitutes ‘long-term’ for COVID-19 is still unknown. This test is a great first step in determining community prevalence and future tests will begin to answer the important questions we all have around long-term immunity.”

MUSC Health, Roper St. Francis Healthcare hospitals, Summerville Medical Center, and Trident Medical Center receive blood products from TBC. Those products help hundreds of local patients per year. This collaboration will boost community collection efforts during this unprecedented time of social distancing and safety concerns. The North Charleston Coliseum and PAC was chosen because it allows for the recommended social distancing space between donors. TBC ensures that all donors are healthy through wellness screenings prior to their donation and the organization is taking extra precautionary measures to ensure donation sites are clean places to donate blood. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, blood centers and hospitals are pleading for anyone who is feeling healthy to do their part and donate blood.

“The Blood Connection has been a great partner in our efforts to increase access to COVID-19 antibody testing in the community, as well as providing life-saving blood products to our patients throughout the MUSC Health system,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO. “We appreciate and fully support this donation event and hope the community will take advantage of this win-win opportunity to help patients across the Lowcountry and simultaneously learn more about their COVID-19 antibody status.”

 

“Given the COVID-19 crisis as well as the potential for a significant increase in cases in the Lowcountry, Roper St. Francis Healthcare is taking every step possible to ensure we are prepared to continue caring for our community,” said Dr. Rick McEvoy, medical director for pathology, oncology and lab at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “Part of those preparations are ensuring an adequate blood supply for all patients, so we encourage community members who are able to consider donating with the Blood Connection. Blood donated locally will be used right here in the Lowcountry to save lives.”

These special precautions will be taken during this drive to limit exposure and encourage social distancing:

  • Donors will be asked to wait in their cars to eliminate the need for people to gather in the same area before their donation.
  • Donors will be contacted via call or text when TBC is ready to start the donation process.
  • All TBC staff will be wearing masks. Donors are encouraged to wear masks, however, they will not be provided.
  • Donor chairs will be spaced as far apart as possible.
  • TBC will be limiting the number of people on a mobile and inside.
  • Donors are strongly encouraged to make an appointment to control social distancing. Make an appointment by visiting this link or by calling 800-392-6551.

Signage will direct donors to the drive entrance and free parking will be available. Appointments are strongly recommended in order to control social distancing and limit interaction. All donors will receive a $10 VISA card in addition to antibody testing. Donors can find their antibody test results in their online donor portal (not on the TBC app) seven business days after donation. To contact TBC, please call 800-392-6551.

TBC emphasizes these facts about donating blood during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control (CDC), there have been no reported or suspected cases of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19. Individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 through the blood donation process or via a blood transfusion, since respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by donation or transfusion.
  • TBC follows appropriate infection control standards of donor rooms and mobiles, which include sanitation of donor waiting rooms and donation chairs. TBC has increased decontamination of surfaces in centers and on blood mobiles.
  • The Blood Connection staff will complete a full health screening for all donors prior to donating blood. This includes a questionnaire (which includes travel questions), temperature check, and mini-physical.
  • America’s Blood Centers and the FDA have both stated that a blood drive is not considered a mass gathering or an event, as donating blood is an “essential civic duty.”
  • Blood centers are not healthcare providers and thus do not provide COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The Blood Connection, MUSC partner to expand community antibody testing effort: MUSC

The Blood Connection, MUSC partner to expand community antibody testing effort

Partnership provides free community COVID-19 antibody testing with blood donation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (May 29, 2020) – The Blood Connection (TBC), a non-profit, community blood center, has partnered with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to provide free COVID-19 antibody testing to all TBC donors. This partnership is an extension of the antibody testing efforts underway throughout MUSC Health, including first responders, health care workers and the larger local community.

Those donating whole blood, platelets, plasma and double red cell donations are eligible to receive the free antibody test at the time of donation, which was developed and is powered by the MUSC Center for Cellular Therapy.

“We are so thankful for the opportunity to work with MUSC on providing this testing as a service to our donors,” said Delisa English, President and CEO of TBC.  “TBC donors have been asking for this testing and MUSC is helping to make it possible.”

Satish Nadig, M.D., medical director for the MUSC Center for Cellular Therapy, said MUSC is highly confident in its test because of extensive validation conducted before it began offering the tests.

“These antibody tests show whether people have long-term antibodies to COVID-19, meaning they were exposed to the novel coronavirus and their bodies mounted an immune response,” he said. “What constitutes ‘long-term’ for COVID-19 is still unknown. This test is a great first step in determining community prevalence and future tests will begin to answer the important questions we all have around long-term immunity.”

The novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19 is one of a family of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans. Three have caused serious outbreaks – SARS coronavirus in 2003, MERS coronavirus beginning in 2012 and now SARS-CoV-2, while the other four cause common colds. This new coronavirus shares 88% of its genetic sequence with SARS coronavirus, Nadig said, which is why it was given the derivative name SARS-CoV-2.

Coronaviruses get their name from their crown-like spikes, and these spikes are a key part of the testing. Using blood serum, the first part of the antibody test looks for a reaction to the receptor binding domain portion of the spike. This is the area that allows the virus to bind itself to human cells. Both SARS coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2 bind to the same area, but MERS coronavirus binds to a different area.

A blood sample that tests positive in this first part of the test is considered presumptive positive, Nadig said. That’s because it’s possible the test is actually picking up antibodies to a different coronavirus. Thus, blood samples are subjected to the second part of the test, the confirmatory test, which looks for a reaction to the entire spike protein.

Nadig said the CCT validated the test first with commercial proteins and then with three sets of patient samples. The first set of patient samples was collected before COVID-19 jumped to humans, so the team knew those samples would definitely be negative for antibodies. It also validated the test using samples from patients who had tested negative during COVID-19 diagnostic testing and from patients who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The CCT’s results were then further vetted by the clinical chemistry laboratory at MUSC Health.

People who take an antibody test will get either a positive result, indicating they have antibodies, or a negative result, indicating no antibodies. Researchers are still determining what antibodies mean for the strength of immunity to COVID-19 or how long such immunity might last.

The test is useful at the population level and helps show how much COVID-19 is circulating in the community. It will also help researchers in understanding whether people who have been exposed to COVID-19 are at risk of reinfection. And as tests continue to improve and scientists learn more about SARS-CoV-2, individuals will be better able to make informed decisions about work and community events.

People who are interested in donating blood and getting an antibody test can learn more or make an appointment by calling TBC at 864-255-5005. If interested in hosting a blood drive at a business, church, school, etc., please call 864-751-1166.

Eastern NC Town Resolves to Save More Lives in 2020

Eastern NC Town Resolves to Save More Lives in 2020

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Onslow County Emergency Medical Services (OCEMS) is now partnering with the community non-profit blood center, The Blood Connection (TBC), to treat patients by introducing type O positive whole blood units into life-saving medical responses. OCEMS will be one of the first EMS units in the nation to utilize whole blood to treat major blood loss on the way to the hospital.

This program will ensure that lifesaving blood transfusions can begin before a patient arrives to their designated hospital – which can be the difference between life or death in a trauma response. Every year, over 60,000 people in the U.S. die due to the aftermath of hemorrhagic trauma. Research has shown that incorporating whole blood units into a first response before a patient’s arrival to the hospital can increase their chances of survival by about 70%.

“Having a dedicated EMS unit, like OCEMS, willing to incorporate our whole blood products into their day to day response is not only a huge step for TBC, but the communities in which we serve and live,” said Delisa K. English, President and CEO of TBC. “We are very excited to be a part of OCEMS’ program and are looking forward to meeting our first patients impacted by this program in Jacksonville.

The idea of using whole blood on the scene of a trauma dates back to World War I and II during combat. Since 1970, the standard practice has shifted to dividing and storing whole blood into plasma, platelets and red blood cells – known as component therapy – in order to conserve blood donations. Fast forward to today and evidence-based research is now showing that whole blood transfusions are effective and do improve mortality rates in on the scene trauma response.

OCEMS was motivated to start this initiative based on a similar program out of San Antonio, which was the first major city in the nation to start utilizing whole blood units on EMS vehicles. 

The program, which will start mid-December, will be supported by blood donations from TBC donors. TBC is a local, non-profit community blood center dedicated to supplying area hospitals in the Carolinas and parts of Georgia with a variety of blood products. Currently, blood products collected from TBC community donors help supply 28 hospitals across the Triangle and Eastern NC.

A press conference will be held on December 16 at the Onslow County Public Safety Memorial in Jacksonville, NC at 10 a.m. OCEMS and TBC members will speak on behalf of the partnership and answer questions. 

Local Blood Provider Now Serving Florence-Based Hospital System

Local Blood Provider Now Serving Florence-Based Hospital System

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Blood Connection (TBC), a Greenville, SC based community blood center, became the exclusive blood provider for another hospital system on October 1, 2019. McLeod Health will be joining other healthcare systems like Vidant Health, WakeMed, UNC REX Healthcare, Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Mission Health, and Prisma Health, who have chosen TBC as their local blood supplier. McLeod, a not-for-profit hospital system based in Florence, SC, has signed on to multiple years with TBC and consists of eight medical facilities that serve 18 counties in the Carolinas. This new relationship will impact thousands of residents by providing live-saving blood products to the PeeDee region through the support of those communities.

TBC has been a non-profit 501(c)(3) community blood center for almost 60 years and is the exclusive provider for the entire Upstate of South Carolina and a large portion of North Carolina. With its expansion into Florence, SC, the blood center will be bridging the gap in the northeastern part of the state between its two other service areas, Greenville and Charleston. 

“This Florence hospital system invited us to the region to be their local blood provider. We are committed to keeping this community supplied with life-saving blood products. To put it into perspective, an unexpected trauma can require 20 pints of blood or more. If there happens to be multiple traumas that require blood, the community supply could be suddenly reduced,” said Delisa K. English, TBC President and CEO. “We have to be ready. When you donate blood with The Blood Connection, you are ensuring your community will have the blood products needed to save lives every day.”

While blood collections is a big part of what TBC does, it is also a full-service blood center, which includes testing, manufacturing, distribution and reference lab services. TBC has begun hiring for blood mobiles already deployed to the region with plans to open a donation center in Florence in 2020. As a single-focused operation, the community blood center is able to commit all of its resources to collecting and testing blood products in order to transport them to local hospitals quickly.

In the last year, TBC has become the blood center of choice for 20 additional counties, providing more than 220,000 blood products to hospital partners in the Carolinas. That translates to hundreds of thousands of local people impacted by the single act of a neighbor donating blood. TBC has also doubled its mobile units to 42 and will be using them to increase its donor collection opportunities to include the southeastern part of North Carolina, more areas along the Outer Banks, and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Because TBC’s mission is to keep blood donations local, more communities will now have the opportunity to support its neighbors in a unique way by sharing life.

Two Independent Hospitals in Eastern North Carolina Choose New Blood Provider

Two Independent Hospitals in Eastern North Carolina Choose New Blood Provider

RALEIGH, N.C – The Blood Connection (TBC), based in Greenville, SC, is now the exclusive blood provider for Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, NC and Martin General in Williamston, NC. On June 1, 2019, TBC began serving both hospitals, expanding its reach in Onslow County and breaching into new territory in Martin County.

TBC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community blood center, licensed and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. TBC has served the Upstate of South Carolina for decades and is now the exclusive provider for every Upstate hospital and a large portion of North Carolina. TBC has a long-standing relationship with the Eastern North Carolina medical community through its affiliation with more than 20 hospitals in 26 counties. TBC also has a strong partnership with Vidant EastCare, which provides the critical blood supply needed to support trauma patients with on-board, O-negative units and plasma on its helicopters.

“We are honored to be able to support this community and we are grateful for each new opportunity to connect donors with recipients,” said Delisa K. English, TBC President and CEO. “We want residents to join us by donating blood that will serve friends, family and neighbors. When you give blood with The Blood Connection you are ensuring that the people of this community will have the blood products available to save their lives.” 

TBC thanks Onslow Memorial and Martin General for the opportunity to serve their patients. Both hospitals embody the community-centered mentality and dedication to quality healthcare that TBC also exemplifies. Now with two more hospitals to supply, TBC will be expanding its donor collection opportunities in the Eastern North Carolina community.

 “We’re looking forward to working with blood donors in this region,” English said. “This is an opportunity to serve more people, help more patients and save more lives. We’re hiring employees and recruiting donors from the local community. Please watch for our signature red blood mobile units and listen for a call from our donor recruiters.” 

Every two seconds, someone in the US needs a life-saving blood transfusion and volunteer donors are the only source of blood products. Maintaining an adequate blood supply requires a delicate balancing effort that monitors available supply versus expected demand. TBC’s mission is to ensure all hospital partners have the blood supplies needed for patients at any given time. All of the blood received through donations goes right back into the communities that TBC serves. In locally-driven operations, neighbors are helping neighbors, but only through a strong partnership with the community.  

TBC urges all eligible donors to donate to ensure that hospital’s needs for blood are uninterrupted. Although TBC is specifically requesting O-negative blood donations, all blood types are needed.

Donors can visit thebloodconnection.org to find a blood drive. They can also give at the local TBC donation center: 5925 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC. TBC welcomes businesses and organizations that can host a blood drive.  To sponsor a blood drive, call 984-222-1100.

Vidant Health’s Partnership with TBC

Vidant Health’s Partnership with TBC

Vidant Health Partners with TBC

GREENVILLE, N.C. – The Blood Connection is now the blood provider for Vidant Health in Pitt County.

“We are honored to be able to support the health of people in this region, and we are grateful for each new opportunity to connect donors with recipients,” said Delisa K. English, TBC President and CEO. “We want eastern North Carolina to join us by donating blood that will serve friends, family, and neighbors. For the victim of a car crash to the cancer patient who depends on platelets, the need for volunteer blood donations is great. When you give blood to The Blood Connection, you are ensuring that the people of this community will have the blood products available to save their lives.”

TBC urges all eligible donors to donate, to help ensure that hospital needs for blood are uninterrupted. Although TBC is specifically requesting O-negative blood donations, all blood types are needed.

Brian Floyd, Vidant Health’s COO said, “I’m excited to share that The Blood Connection is now the primary supplier of blood and blood products for Vidant Health. Ultimately, Vidant’s objective is to have a self-sustaining supply of blood and The Blood Connection is committed with us to achieve this goal.

“Vidant is always focused and committed to quality, and The Blood Connection’s high standards in quality and service, were key factors in forming this new partnership. The Blood Connection is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks, the premier accreditation service for organizations involved in blood supplies, and is licensed and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Blood is collected through bloodmobiles, portable field units and fixed donation sites; all testing and processing takes place at a state-of-the-art biologics process center in Piedmont, SC. The Blood Connection’s laboratory services also help us meet the precise needs of patients.

“We are excited and supportive of The Blood Connection coming to eastern North Carolina and we look forward to working together for patients throughout the region.”