© 2021 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Blood, Plasma Could Aid COVID Treatment

F368371A-8CAA-4F34-A7F3-9BCBD7BF9044.jpeg
Defense.gov
/

State and local officials are urging Floridians who have recovered from the novel coronavirus to share their blood and plasma for others to be treated.

“Everybody donate your plasma, it’s very, very important; you can make a different in people’s health and in their lives,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking at OneBlood headquarters in Orlando Monday.

When the COVID-19 outbreak reached Florida in March, there wasn’t much information on how to treat it. But DeSantis says a number of inroads have been made since then – including the use of “convalescent plasma.”

“Blood from somebody who has cleared the COVID-19 disease,” said DeSantis. “It has the antibodies, and then it’s used on a patient who is sick in the hospital. And what they find is – as well as with some of the other treatments – the earlier you do it, the more effective it will be.”

The state has had antibody testing for the general public at a number of drive-through test sites for the last number of weeks. Instead of swabs in noses or down throats, antibody testing draws blood with the results back in about 15 minutes.

As has been the case the past couple of weeks, DeSantis has encountered protesters during his news conferences calling him a “liar.” As Orange County deputies removed them from the venue, the governor pressed on with his remarks as the protest continued outside.

rita_reik_oneblood.jpg
Credit OneBlood
Dr. Rita Reik, Chief Medical Officer, OneBlood

“If you go into a drive-through testing site, and you want to do an antibody test, you will actually be able to see if you’ve had a recent infection if you get a certain type of antibody,” said the governor. “And then if you get the IgG antibody, you’re going to be in a situation where you know that you’ve cleared the illness probably for several weeks.”

“I’d like to just – from a medical point of view – tell you how important convalescent plasma is; this is a treatment that has been around, actually, for almost a century,” said Dr. Rita Reik, Chief Medical Officer at OneBlood.

She adds that it’s only been approved recently by the Food and Drug Administration as an experimental treatment for COVID-19, with studies ongoing.

“We’ve been using it since the outbreak of the epidemic, and we’re finding that we have very positive results from it,” said Reik. “[The studies] are not published yet; the analyses are still being done, but we’re very encouraged by what we see.”

“If you are an individual who has had COVID, and you are 28 days symptom-free or symptom-free for the last 14 days with documentation of a negative follow-up – we need you,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.

Speaking on Facebook last week, Robinson said the call for plasma donors is going out from Northwest Florida’s three regional hospitals – Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida.

“Please contact OneBlood at www.oneblood.org; your blood could be vital to keeping us moving forward,” said the mayor. “This to me is just as important as the potential for a vaccine. If we get to a point where our hospitals can treat it effectively, this makes a huge difference.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County seems to be having trouble hiring enough contact tracers to keep up with COVID-19 cases. The search is on for about 40 workers. Dr. John Lanza, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County was sought for an interview, but was not made available by the DOH.