Some blood banks in North Texas are worried about a blood shortage. They're now offering COVID-19 antibody tests as an added service and incentive to donate.
Carter BloodCare, which operates in North, East and Central Texas, said in a press release that it's experiencing "the most prolonged period of a critical blood shortage in recent history."
Dr. Laurie Sutor, Carter's vice president of medical and technical services, said blood is going out the door as fast as it's coming in, and hospitals don't have as much of a stockpile as they'd like.
"If we were to have a big bleeder in a hospital, or a bad traffic accident, or some catastrophe, then we might not have the blood inventory in place for meeting the needs of the patients," Sutor said.
Hoping to appeal to donors' curiosity, Carter is now offering COVID-19 antibody tests that look for proteins the body makes in response to an infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a positive COVID-19 antibody test could indicate a past coronavirus infection.
"I think people are always busy, or tied up in their own activities, and sometimes they just need an incentive to take the time to come and donate," Sutor said.
The American Red Cross is also testing all blood, plasma and platelet donations for antibodies. Spokesperson Jan Hale said demand for blood is rising as hospitals resume elective procedures that were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19.
"We are still seeing blood drives being canceled, and we certainly understand. We've got businesses that are still operating virtually. Our high schools of course are not in session," she said.
The CDC stresses it doesn't know yet whether someone who tests positive for antibodies is immune to reinfection.
The Red Cross and Carter BloodCare are asking people to consider a donation in the days, weeks and months to come. They are also looking for plasma donations from people who are fully recovered from COVID-19, as clinicians test them for use in treating the disease.
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