As coronavirus patients return to hospitals, need for plasma increases

Inside Sarasota Memorial Hospital, patients with COVID-19 are reappearing. 

"The uptick in the amount of COVID cases in the community is real," said Dr. Kirk Voelker, a critical care specialist and the hospital’s director of clinical research. 

Voelker said 17 patients remain hospitalized with the virus; four are on ventilators in the intensive care unit. 

"Two weeks ago, I was actually celebrating the fact that the COVID ICUs were empty. We had discharged our last patient. Unfortunately, we have four patients on breathing machines," he said. 

PREVIOUS: Sarasota Memorial Hospital's COVID-19 ICU sits empty for first time 

Voelker said hand-washing, mask usage, and social distancing remain key in curtailing the coronavirus.

"If you look around in the community, people are starting to become more relaxed about it, it’s still as contagious as we thought," he continued. 

Another concern is the low supply of convalescent plasma. 

"We only have seven units on our shelf right now. It’s not much. These are in great demand, unfortunately. It continues to increase now," said Scott Bush, the CEO of Suncoast Blood Centers. 

Convalescent plasma therapy relies on blood plasma donations from people who've recovered from COVID-19. The plasma, which contains antibodies, is transfused into sick patients, with the hope that it will help them recover. 

Dr. Voelker said there is a critical need for plasma donations. 

"I had a patient that went on a ventilator yesterday and we are still trying to get him the convalescent plasma," Voelker said.

The treatment is currently in clinical trials at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, but Voelker is convinced it works. 

"As the boots-on-the-ground guy in the intensive care unit, I can see people who have high fevers, they’re heart is racing. We give them the plasma and it calms things down," he said. 

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Sarasota Memorial Hospital urges anyone who has recovered from COVID to consider donating their plasma. That simple donation will save lives. 

"You want to do everything you can to help save these people's lives," Voelker added.

If you have recovered from COVID-19, or think you had COVID-19 but were not tested for the virus, SunCoast Blood Centers will run a serological test to determine if you have the antibodies present to help replenish the community's dwindling supply of convalescent plasma. Call SunCoast at 941-993-8119 or email