Did you survive COVID-19? NJ needs your blood donation now
New Jersey is expanding use of two COVID-19 therapies as the number of hospitalizations continue to decline.
State and Red Cross officials on Saturday asked New Jersey residents who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma, which researchers and physicians will use to treat other patients with the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
University Hospital in Newark has treated 100 patients with convalescent plasma from recovered patients, whose blood developed antibodies that fight the virus. Health officials said the results looked "promising."
Last month, Virtua Voorhees Hospital announced that it had successfully treated two COVID-19 patients in their 60s using blood plasma from a woman who had recovered.
People interested in donating plasma should visit redcrossblood.org/plasma4covid to make an appointment at a blood collection site nearest to them. The state, meanwhile, is opening plasma collections sites at the Red Cross Blood Center in Fairfield and University Hospital.
Donors must now be fully recovered and have had a verified COVID-19 test result.
American Red Cross New Jersey Region Executive Officer Rosie Taravella said Saturday that the organization has provided a thousand plasma donations to hospitals across the country and is expected to process another thousand this week.
Taravella said the plasma can be frozen for up to a year. It is being used to treat patients with life-threatening conditions of COVID-19.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday also said that the pharmaceutical company Gilead had donated more than 4,400 vials of Remdesivir, an antiviral that has been shown to shorten the recovery time for COVID-19 from 15 days to 11 days.
"That proves that this drug can block the virus," state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Saturday.
Murphy said the state would coordinate a plan to distribute the drug "to where the greatest need is."
The promising news on therapies comes as a Rutgers-based laboratory company received emergency FDA approval on Thursday for an at-home saliva test that is available by prescription. Murphy has said that widespread availability of rapid tests will be key to returning much of the state back to work.
The COVID-19 death toll on Saturday reached 9,116, with more than 4,800 of those deaths at long-term care facilities.
Murphy has begun taking steps to slowly reopen the state as some Republican lawmakers have called for more immediate action.
Murphy noted that while "we're making a lot of progress," another 364 patients with COVID-19 were admitted to state hospitals in the previous 24 hours.
"We are not out of the woods, folks. Let's not forget that," he said. "Public health creates economic health and data determines dates."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.