Bay Area hospitals report delays finding plasma for COVID-19 patients

The problem is one many Florida hospitals are facing daily: The surge in coronavirus cases statewide is causing a growing demand for blood and plasma donations from people who have recovered from the virus.

“We have used all of the plasma that is available, at least for today,” said Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Manuel Gordillo. “We’re hoping tonight we’ll have more.”

Doctors from BayCare and Sarasota Memorial Hospital both confirmed Tuesday that there’s not only a need, but also a desire to speed up the process.

“It’s taking anywhere from 48 to 96 hours from when you order plasma to the patient getting it,” said BayCare Health System’s Dr. Paul Lewis. 

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The way it works is pretty simple: When you survive coronavirus, your immune system produces antibodies in your bloodstream. 

“If you take those antibodies and passively transfuse them to someone who has the illness and has not recovered, then those antibodies will go ahead and start effectively fighting the virus,” Lewis said. “So it’s a wonderful way of passing on immunity and some antibody response from people who have recovered.”

And with hospitals running out of remdesivir, they’re turning to these plasma transfusions for COVID-19 patients.

“It’s not specifically designed for this; it’s kind of like a more generic way of treating this,” Gordillo said. “We hope that there’s good antibodies in the plasma, but we don’t know for sure.”

What they do know, is how many patients can benefit from one donation.

“If you donate one time, you can treat up to three people. So that’s a pretty significant impact you could potentially make and save live someone’s life to do that,” Lewis added. 

LINK: More information on donating plasma

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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