Red Cross offering free COVID-19 antibody testing on blood, platelet and plasma donations
The American Red Cross is offering free COVID-19 antibody testing on all blood, platelet and plasma donations.
The testing, which is available for a limited time, can help to provide insight on whether donors had been previously exposed to the novel coronavirus.
The Red Cross is not offering free COVID-19 testing, which would let a person know whether they are actively infected with the novel coronavirus, but rather testing for COVID-19 antibodies, which indicates a previous infection.
The testing is expected to be available throughout the summer. The Red Cross will determine if testing will continue beyond that, dependent on “available funding and the evolving needs of the pandemic.”
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According to the organization, “an antibody test screens for antibodies in your blood, which are formed when fighting an infection, like COVID-19. An antibody test assesses whether your immune system has responded to the infection, not if the virus is currently present.”
How do I sign up for the antibody testing?
Those who wish to sign up should visit the Red Cross’ website. From there, you can enter your zip code and then reserve an available appointment at a location near you.
You can also make an appointment by dialing 1-800-RED-Cross or by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App.
How can I receive my test results?
Those who sign up for an appointment through the Red Cross service can access their test results online about 7 to 10 days after their test. Individuals will need to create an account on RedCrossBlood.org or the Red Cross Blood Donor App to view their results, according to the organization.
Will there be safety protocols in place during testing?
Yes. The Red Cross is requiring that donors wear a mask and practice social distancing up to and during donation. Temperature checks will also be conducted on individuals prior to their entering a donation center.
What does it mean if I test positive or negative for antibodies?
If you test positive, that means that you may have had previous exposure to the novel coronavirus and that your body has developed antibodies specific to it, says the Red Cross.
“If you are antibody positive you may be eligible to take part in our convalescent plasma donation program," according to the Red Cross.
If you test negative, that most likely means you haven’t been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have not developed antibodies.
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If I test positive, does that mean I’m immune from COVID-19?
Not necessarily. “If you do have antibodies, do not assume you are invulnerable to the new coronavirus; you might be just as susceptible as someone who has no antibodies,” Dr. William A. Petri, Jr. told Discover Magazine.
Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that regardless of whether one tests positive or negative on an antibody or viral COVID-19 test, they should still take preventative measures to protect themselves and others.