Local nonprofit blood center Blood Assurance will continue to offer free testing for COVID-19 antibodies to blood donors through September.
Blood Assurance also currently needs O-positive, O-negative, B-negative, A-positive and AB-negative red cell donors, as well as platelet donors. They are encouraging members of the community to give blood to help local patients in need.
“We are happy we can continue offering antibody testing to all area donors in order to help collect information about exposure to coronavirus in our area,” said Dr. Liz Culler, medical director at Blood Assurance. “If you believe you had COVID-19 and did not get tested, we invite you to donate blood and be tested for the antibodies with Blood Assurance.
“Much is still unknown about the antibodies to coronavirus, and we are glad we are able to contribute information to the medical community,” she said.
Donors need to be aware this is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19 infection, and if they believe they may be currently infected, they are asked not to give blood and instead to consider visiting a healthcare provider.
It is possible for this test to provide a falsely negative or falsely positive result and not all people make antibodies when exposed to COVID-19. What a positive test indicates is that the donor may currently have or previously had COVID-19 and have developed antibodies to the virus.
Blood Assurance also encourages those who receive a positive test to continue taking all CDC recommended steps to protect themselves and others from the infection by wearing a mask, social distancing and frequently washing hands. It is currently unknown if the presence of these antibodies will protect the body from contracting COVID-19 again or how long the antibodies remain in the blood.
Blood Assurance is taking steps to ensure the health of its donors and is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak nationally and in its service area. Special protocols are in place including extra cleaning and keeping donors and staff distanced.
Blood Assurance is also asking all donors to wear a mask at their next donation. Blood Assurance will provide masks for donors if they do not have one with them. Individuals are not at risk to contract COVID-19 through blood donation or transfusion, and it is only transferred by respiratory droplets in a cough or sneeze. Blood drives are a safe and sanitary environment and are not considered a mass gathering.
Donors can save time by answering their questions before their appointment with the Blood Assurance QuickScreen app. To download the app, visit bloodassurance.org/quickscreen.
Blood Assurance is taking donations by appointment only to ensure social distancing and to schedule an appointment at a donor center or blood drive, donor can visit www.bloodassurance.org, call 800-962-0628 or text BAGIVE to 999777.
To be eligible to donate blood, donors must be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent), weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. Donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids — avoiding caffeine — and eat a meal that is rich in iron prior to donating. Please bring a photo I.D.
Blood Assurance is a nonprofit, full-service regional blood center serving health care facilities in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. Founded in 1972 as a joint effort of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, the Chattanooga Area Hospital Council and the Chattanooga Jaycees, the mission of Blood Assurance is to provide a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood components to every area patient in need.