Southwest Virginia Red Cross director shares need and new incentive for blood donations

 April 12, 2018. <br />Fairfax Blood Center, Fairfax, Virginia<br />Blood Donation 2018.<br />Photo by Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross
April 12, 2018. <br />Fairfax Blood Center, Fairfax, Virginia<br />Blood Donation 2018.<br />Photo by Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross (WDBJ)
Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 4:59 AM EDT
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The American Red Cross has a new incentive to get more people donating blood in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. For a limited time, after you donate blood, a sample will be tested to see if you have COVID-19 antibodies.

Across the country, the number of blood donations dropped as schools and businesses were forced to shut down and people had to stay home.

In Southwest Virginia, Jackie Grant, the executive director, said they have had a steady stream of regular donors. However, the shelf life of a blood donation is short.

To encourage more people to donate, the

along with other infectious diseases.

"So this is really kind of an awareness for you that 'I have the antibodies at this point. And I may have had the disease and I may have been a-symptomatic at that point,'" Grant said.

You'll be notified within 7-10 days whether your blood was positive or negative for the antibodies.

If it's positive, that doesn't mean that you have the infection and need to quarantine.

This is different than the

. Donating convalescent plasma in order to help COVID-19 patients, required the donor to have been previously diagnosed with the disease and be fully recovered.

This new anti-body test is for everyone who donates and is not a test to prove whether you had the virus or not.

"If you're not feeling well, we don't want you to come in and give blood," Grant said. "This is not to diagnose the coronavirus. This is for people who feel good and as an extra benefit, the American Red Cross along with the Food and Drug Administration, are allowing this test to determine whether you have the antibodies in your system."

A positive COVID-19 antibodies scan likely means you were exposed to the virus at one point, remained asymptomatic and now your immune system has produced the antibodies.

Grant also wanted to encourage people to come out and donate by explaining what the Red Cross is doing to make it a safe experience.

She said you must make an appointment in advance as they limit the number of people in the building at one time. Your temperature will be checked at the door. All the surfaces are sanitized regularly. Beds are 6 feet apart. You and the phlebotomist will be required to wear a mask.

Donation appointments can be made by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting

, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Anyone who donates June 1-30 will receive a $5 gift card via email.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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