© 2023 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WNIJ News and NPR is committed to connecting you with the latest news related to COVID-19 in northern Illinois and across the country. We are taking precautions to keep staff safe while providing you with the resources you need. Thank you for your continued support which allows us to remain your trusted source on the coronavirus pandemic.

Blood Donations Urgently Needed, Now Being Tested For COVID-19 Antibodies

Photo provided by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

If you are healthy and have an hour to spare, Illinois has an urgent need for blood donations. And, as of Monday, blood donations are being tested for COVID-19 antibodies. This testing has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Antibody testing, also called "A-B testing," looks for the presence of specific proteins that are made in response to infections. The American Red Cross has a long-standing practice of testing blood donations for infectious diseases, but COVID-19 antibody testing is new. 

Laura McGuire is the external communications manager for the Red Cross. She works on the biomed team and said she knows "everything you would want to know about blood drives and blood."

McGuire expects the COVID-19  antibody testing to "go for a few months" but added, "We're really just kind of operating day-to-day to see how we can help the FDA, and for how long we can help them."

McGuire says the A-B testing data will provide the FDA with essential information, including locations of COVID-19 hot spots. 

She said the organization is testing all blood products "including white cells, red cells, platelets and plasma." She said donors can expect to receive notification of results from the Red Cross within 7-10 days. 

"You're either able to go to the Red Cross Blood Donor App," McGuire said, "or you're able to log onto our website and there will be a portal --  and donors are going to be able to see either a positive or a negative with regards to antibodies for COVID."

McGuire said they are not diagnostically testing for COVID-19 so if you have symptoms, do not try to donate blood. The Red Cross wants healthy individuals to donate blood.

"If you're sick," she said, "we really prefer you to stay home, rest, recover and wait 28 days." She explained, "A positive antibody test does not currently tell you whether or not you would be immune to further infections." McGuire said it's important to keep in mind that the donor will receive either a positive or a negative test result.

If it's positive?

"We recommend they reach out to their local physician to find out what the next steps are."

If you are interested in donating blood, but have some fears, McGuire said donating blood only takes an hour and is a "very easy process." She reminded potential donors, "You're really helping to save lives."

McGuire emphasized that it does not hurt to give blood. "It's a little pinch in the arm," she said, "and that pinch is just a couple seconds."  She added, "We have an excellent staff and volunteers that coach you through every step of the process."

All blood types are needed. A blood donor card or driver's license or two other forms of ID are required at check-in. Individuals must be in general good health, at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds.

She explained that giving blood is safe. Even before COVID-19, they used sterilized needles and now, amid the pandemic, they have updated their safety protocol.

  • You will get your temperature checked
  • You will be asked coronavirus-related questions to see if you've been exposed
  • Once you are inside the facility, you will wear a face mask
  • Blood donation appointments are staggered throughout the day 
  • There are new limits on the number of people allowed within their facilities
  • They wipe down all touch points continuously throughout your donation
  • Staff wear masks and gloves

McGuire also addressed a common misconception about donor eligibility. Giving an example, she said, "If you were recently to have had a tattoo, you can't donate. That is absolutely not the case." To learn about donor eligibility, click here.

McGuire said, "The Red Cross strives to have blood for everybody wherever or whenever it's needed."  To schedule an appointment, you can call 1-800-RED-CROS or click here and enter your zip code to find the blood center or blood drive closest to you.