Furthering pandemic research… Marsh Regional Blood Center offers free COVID-19 antibody testing to blood donors

Published 3:56 pm Monday, July 20, 2020

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JOHNSON CITY – To further understand the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as well as foster much-needed blood donations, Marsh Regional Blood Center will conduct free COVID-19 antibody testing for its blood donors, beginning Monday, July 20.

This test – which is only available after donors successfully complete a pre-screening and are confirmed as eligible to give – does not indicate if someone currently has COVID-19, but it can show a previous COVID-19 infection.

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Gathering this information is crucial to understanding COVID-19, especially since current estimates suggest 25-45% of cases have mild or no symptoms.

“Because our knowledge of COVID-19 changes day-to-day, we need to do everything we can to learn more about its spread and how many people have truly been affected,” said Don Campbell, director of Marsh Regional.

“Currently, estimates for how many people have contracted COVID-19 while staying completely asymptomatic vary greatly, so by sampling members of our communities for antibodies, we’ll be able to better gauge how many people have been infected and how far the pandemic has spread, which will help us fight its continued reach.”

When registering, potential donors will be asked, in the event they test positive for COVID-19 if they would be willing to donate convalescent plasma to help treat patients who are critically ill with the virus.

Convalescent plasma is a component of blood that is being investigated as a potential treatment option for current COVID-19 patients. Currently, Ballad Health is partnering with Mayo Clinic to conduct a national study on this, and local convalescent plasma donors are crucial to its success.

Donors will be notified of their test results by mail within two weeks, and Marsh Regional will reach out to any donors with positive antibodies.

Campbell also noted the need for donors has been at a nearly all-time high throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as many local businesses, schools, and organizations have canceled blood drives.

Additionally, with the rapid increase of COVID-19 infections in the Appalachian Highlands, the need for convalescent plasma has grown exponentially.

The COVID-19 antibody test is available for donors who give at Marsh Regional’s collection centers and public blood drives. Upcoming community blood drives will be held:

Monday, July 20, noon-6 p.m.

Morgan Memorial United Methodist Church, Rose Hill, Virginia

Tuesday, July 21, 1 -6 p.m.

Valley View Freewill Baptist Church, Clintwood, Virginia

Tuesday, July 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

CVA Heart Institute, Kingsport, Tennessee

Tuesday, July 21, 1:30-5 p.m.

UPM Pharmaceuticals, Bristol, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 22, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sapling Grove Urgent Care, Bristol, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 22, 1-6:30 p.m.

St Anne Catholic Church, Bristol, Virginia

Wednesday, July 22, 4-8 p.m.

Ridgeview Baptist Church, Church Hill, Tennessee

Wednesday, July 22, 4:30-8 p.m.

South Holston Ruritan, Bristol, Tennessee

Thursday, July 23, 9 a.m.-noon

Microporous, Piney Flats

Thursday, July 23, 1:30-4 p.m.

Marion Mold & Tool Inc., Marion, Virginia

Thursday, July 23, 1-5 p.m.

Wolf Hills Fabricators and Komatsu Mining Corp., Abingdon, Virginia

Friday, July 24, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Robinette Company, Bristol, Tennessee

Friday, July 24, noon-5 p.m.

Calvary Church, Johnson City

Saturday, July 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Historical Society of Washington County (hosted by the Abingdon Rotary Club), Abingdon, Virginia

Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to reduce donors’ potential exposure to COVID-19, as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts and additional physical distancing precautions wherever possible.

COVID-19 does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives, and blood donation centers always take steps to prevent team members and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area.

Additionally, donors are required to wear a cloth face covering, such as homemade masks, bandana, or buff, at all times on in collection centers or mobile units. If donors do not bring their own face covering, Marsh Regional will provide one.

All blood, platelet, and convalescent plasma donations received until Friday, Aug. 14, will be entered to win a Yeti hard cooler prize pack.

“While so many aspects of our daily lives have been altered by COVID-19, one of the things that remain is an ever-present need for blood donations,” Campbell said.

“Marsh Regional encourages everyone who feels healthy and well to come out and donate as soon as possible – not only will you be saving local lives, but you could be contributing to critical pandemic research.”

As many as three lives can be saved each time someone donates blood – and donations to Marsh Regional stay local to help people in this region.

Marsh Regional supplies blood to 28 regional medical facilities, all regional cancer centers, and five air rescue bases in Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky.

To give blood, donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds or more, and be in good health.

People with a cold, sore throat, fever, flu, or fever blisters or who are taking antibiotics may not donate. Donors should eat a balanced meal before giving blood.

Additionally, Marsh Regional has updated its donor eligibility guidelines to reflect new federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. Donation deferrals have been modified for individuals who were previously unable to give due to time spent in certain European countries or on military bases in Europe.

Potential donors should call 423-408-7500 to be pre-screened for eligibility.

In addition to the scheduled blood drives, donors are welcome at Marsh Regional’s collection centers: 111 W. Stone Drive, Suite 300, Kingsport2428 Knob Creek Road, Johnson City; and 1996 W. State St., Bristol.

An appointment is required before giving blood at any blood center – donors should call 423-408-7500, 423-652-0014 or 423-282-7090 or visit www.marshblood.com for more information about appointments or to schedule a blood drive at a local business, church, school or community organization.

Same-day blood donation appointments are frequently available.

Donors who undergo COVID-19 antibody testing should call contact Marsh Regional at 423-408-7501 if they do not receive test results within two weeks.