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The Blood Connection at Forefront of COVID-19 Fight

The Blood Connection at the Forefront of COVID-19 Fight

National Call to Action Urges Americans to Donate Convalescent Plasma

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA – An urgent plea from the President and top public health officials has thrust the potentially lifesaving effects of convalescent plasma into the national spotlight. Convalescent plasma has proven to drastically help many COVID-19 patients battling the virus. At a roundtable discussion on July 30, President Donald Trump, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others, urged the public to donate convalescent plasma to help their fellow Americans. The Blood Connection (TBC) has been at the forefront of local convalescent plasma collection efforts for several months, in its commitment to meet every patient’s need. Rarely is the blood collection community highlighted by nation leadership, but because of blood centers’ essential role in collecting convalescent plasma, TBC’s work is now part of a public health initiative.

“The need for this plasma has never been more urgent. That’s why we’ve worked closely with our hospitals and community partners to host mobile plasma drives and will continue to utilize our centers to provide the most opportunities for donation,” says TBC President and CEO, Delisa English. “So far we have impacted thousands of our neighbors, and we won’t stop until this battle is won.”

“As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, millions of patients with COVID-19 need medical care right now—and the transfusion of COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) is one of the best options we have at our disposal to help people recover,” American Association of Blood Banks CEO, Debra S. BenAvram, stated after the national announcement. “AABB and our blood community partners have been leading the charge from the beginning to drive additional donations of CCP and we welcome the federal government’s assistance in this critical effort.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Carolinas, the demand for convalescent plasma is outrunning the supply. Not only are plasma units needed for current cases, a healthy stockpile of this product must stand ready to help patients at any time. TBC and the community hospitals it serves are calling for all eligible donors to give immediately to stabilize the supply. TBC belongs to a network of local blood centers, called America’s Blood Centers (ABC), who supply 60 percent of the national blood supply. ABC members have collectively sent out 100,000 doses of convalescent plasma to partner hospitals, as reported during the national roundtable discussion.

The Blood Connection wants the community to hear from some of the hard-working frontline physicians who are treating COVID-19 patients on the importance of convalescent plasma:

“Even though convalescent plasma is investigational, it’s one of the most effective treatments we have to treat patients with COVID-19. A delay in treatment could worsen patient outcomes. We ask that everyone who has recovered from COVID-19 please consider donating this potential life saver which is in such short supply right now.” –John Kudlak, DO, Division Chief Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Prisma Health (Upstate SC)

“For those fortunate enough to have recovered from their COVID-19 infection, donating plasma is an incredible opportunity for people to support others in their community who are sick with COVID-19.  MUSC’s partnership with The Blood Connection has allowed us to give convalescent plasma to nearly 150 patients and to give our patients a way to give back to others.  We are incredibly grateful to The Blood Connection for their commitment to our South Carolina patients and community.” –John Wrangle, Hematology and Oncology at MUSC Health (Charleston, SC)

 “Given the potentially lifesaving effect of convalescent plasma, and the current low inventory, please consider donating plasma today. The procedure is easy and one donation can positively impact several severely ill patients.” –Rick McEvoy, Medical Director for pathology, oncology and lab at Roper St. Francis Healthcare (Charleston, SC) 

“This plasma may contain antibodies to help current patients recover, and we need to expand supplies in blood banks to prepare for the greater number of cases we expect to see in the months ahead.” –Luther Bartelt, MD, infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine and lead investigator of the convalescent plasma program at UNC Medical Center (Raleigh, NC)

As many of these physicians have seen firsthand, just one convalescent plasma donation can make a lifesaving difference. The first convalescent plasma recipient in South Carolina – Lisa Hardin – now calls the product “liquid gold” in light of her miraculous recovery.

“I cannot explain to you the changes that miraculously started to happen inside of my body [after transfusion].  I felt like there was a battle going on in my body, but this time, I was winning,” said Hardin. “I fell into a hard and fast sleep after receiving the antibodies and when I woke up, I could not believe the energy I felt already.  I could breathe again, and the fever was gone! My doctors and nurses were amazed, but no one was more amazed than me!”

As this community’s blood center, it is imperative that donors give convalescent plasma with TBC. Donors must be symptom free for at least 14 days and bring proof of a positive COVID-19 test or positive COVID-19 antibody test in order to donate. Please call 864-751-1168 to make an appointment to donate plasma at select TBC blood drives or at any TBC center in North or South Carolina.

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

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

Vidant Health to support its blood provider

GREENVILLE, N.C. (JULY 9, 2020) To boost community collection efforts during this unprecedented time of social distancing and safety concerns, Vidant Health and The Blood Connection (TBC) are partnering to host a large community blood drive at the Greenville Convention Center. The blood drive is set for Thursday, July 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. inside the convention center at 303 SW Greenville Boulevard. Those who complete a blood donation will receive free COVID-19 antibody testing and a $10 VISA card. This drive comes at a time of great need for blood donations, especially convalescent plasma donations. As COVID- 19 cases continue to rise, there is a critical need for this plasma to help COVID-19 patients.

“Vidant appreciates The Blood Connection’s work to help collect and provide blood to thousands, including those we serve,” said Brian Floyd, president, Vidant Medical Center. “Donating blood can help save lives and so can COVID-19 antibody testing. Antibody testing helps us strengthen our understanding of this virus and its prevalence in our community. I would encourage those interested in donating to consider visiting the Greenville Convention Center on July 16 to help make a difference.”

All donors who complete a blood donation at this community drive will receive COVID-19 antibody testing. 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 for all complete blood donations. 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.

As mentioned, The Blood Connection has an urgent need for convalescent plasma, a blood product that can help those battling COVID-19. Research has shown that there are antibodies in the plasma of those who have recovered from COVID-19 that can be transfused to COVID-19 patients to aid in their recovery. Donors have the opportunity to donate this plasma at the Greenville community blood drive. Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has been symptom free for at least 14 days can donate convalescent plasma. Donors must bring proof of a

positive COVID-19 test or positive COVID-19 antibody test to the blood drive in order to donate. Please call 864-751-1168 to make an appointment to donate plasma.

Blood donations, including convalescent plasma, have a positive community impact because Vidant Health receives its blood products from TBC. Those products help hundreds of local patients per year. The Greenville Convention Center 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.

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

  • Donor flow will be set up to limit interaction between donors.

  • All TBC staff will be wearing masks. Face coverings are required for donors.

  • Donor chairs will be spaced as far apart as possible.

  • Donors are strongly encouraged to make an appointment to control social distancing.

    Make an appointment by visiting this link or by calling 864-751-1155.

    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. Donors can find their antibody test results in their online donor portal (not on the TBC app) seven business days after donation. Donors can make an appointment at thebloodconnection.org. To contact TBC, please call 864-751-1155.

    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.

  • 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.”

  • TBC follows appropriate infection control standards of donor rooms and mobiles, which include sanitation of 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.

  • Blood centers are not healthcare providers and thus do not provide COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

About Vidant Health

Vidant Health is a mission-driven, 1,512-bed health system that annually serves more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. The not-for-profit system is made up of more than 13,000 employees, nine hospitals, home health, hospice, wellness centers, and Vidant Medical Group, a multi-specialty physician and provider group with more than 500 providers in more than 90 locations in eastern North Carolina. Vidant is affiliated with The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant has a mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. For more information, visit www.vidanthealth.com.

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.

THE BLOOD CONNECTION PROVIDES FREE COVID-19 ANTIBODY TESTING TO ALL BLOOD DONORS

The Blood Connection Provides Free COVID-19 Antibody Testing to All Blood Donors

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA (May 11, 2020) – The Blood Connection (TBC), a local non-profit, community blood center is offering COVID-19 antibody testing to all donors at no cost, beginning Monday, May 11.  The test, which will provide blood donors with a positive or negative result, will be included in the normal panel of testing that is done to all blood that is collected by the organization.

“After an overwhelming, positive response from our donors through a poll, The Blood Connection is proud to offer this test to our donors at no cost,” said Delisa English, President & CEO of TBC.

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.

“We are providing this test as a service to our donors. As a respiratory virus, there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through blood donation or transfusion,” says Dr. Robert Rainer, Medical Director for TBC.

TBC will be offering this testing to donors at all donation centers and blood mobiles.  Although this is being made available to all donors, anyone may opt out of the testing within 24 hours of donation. Once the individual has donated with TBC, the organization will make results available to the donor within 7 business days by means of electronic portal.  This testing is only available to blood donors and a complete donation must be made in order to be tested.  Individual testing is not available to those who are unwilling or unable to donate.

All donors must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible to donate.  Donors must be 17 years of age or older, weight at least 110 pounds and be feeling healthy and well in order to donate. People who are 16 years old may donate with a parental consent form.  

If donors would like to have the COVID-19 Antibody Test, they are encouraged to make an appointment to donate blood with The Blood Connection, find a drive nearest them. If anyone would like to host a blood drive in their community, business, church, etc. please contact The Blood Connection.