PETERSBURG, Va. -- Gary Wayne Matthews has donated blood more than 300 times in his life.
"It doesn't hurt and it certainly helps people," Matthews said.
Now the American Red Cross is doing more with the blood Matthews and others donate.
Every unit of blood that is donated goes through testing for COVID-19 antibodies. If the blood contains the antibodies, it can be sent to the hospital to help people with COVID.
"That's why this is so important for the public to understand that when they donate blood, they're not only helping the patients in our community that have conditions that require blood, they could potentially be helping someone that's still in the throes of battling this awful virus," Red Cross spokesperson Jonathan McNamara said. "It is now possible to potentially take that blood and redistribute the plasma to a patient who's battling this virus."
Hospitals can use the plasma from patients who've recovered from COVID and pass the immunity to newly-diagnosed patients.
"Patients who receive it earlier in their infection tend to have better outcomes, shorter lengths of stay," Dr. Kim Sanford, Director of the VCU Medical Blood Bank, said. "So you can actually give someone and transfer your immunity by providing your COVID plasma."
A similar process has been used to treat MERS, SARS and Ebola patients.
Officials believe about 2% of donors nationwide are positive for the COVID antibodies. The FDA has relaxed some of its donation requirements in an effort to bring more blood to the nation's banks.
For more information on donating blood and to schedule an appointment, click here.