Valparaiso University Red Cross blood drive offers COVID-19 antibody test

The Red Cross is hosting an on campus blood drive with COVID-19 antibody tests and is in need of student and faculty donors. The drive, which is a campus only event due to COVID-19 concerns, usually draws up to 20% of its donors from the Valparaiso community, leading to greater obligations for VU members to participate. 

Donors can give blood in the Harre Union ballrooms from 12-6pm on Sept. 22. 

Participants are urged to register for a time slot online in order to control the flow of traffic and maintain proper social distancing. Extensive precautions are in place in light of the pandemic including temperature checks for all donors and staff as well as requiring masks and increasing sanitation measures.

“We're disinfecting each station, each donor touched area between every single donor, the computer, the bed, the blood pressure, cuff, everything. So we're doing lots of disinfecting all throughout as well,” said Trish Cochran, the Red Cross Blood Services Representative for Valpo.

Each blood donation will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies, a test that indicates if the individual has been exposed to the virus. The results are available on the Red Cross website under the individual’s profile after 5-10 days. 

A positive test for the antibodies does not necessarily indicate a COVID-19 case, and should be used to measure exposure as well as followed up with a doctor’s visit for further testing.

New changes have been made by the FDA, loosening former qualifications for donors and are being implemented by the Red Cross. These include limiting the waiting period to be able to donate from six months to three months from the date of a male having sex with another male, a new tattoo or piercing, and traveling to an area with malaria. 

Additionally, donors from Europe now have a list of questions to answer rather than being unable to donate in the US.

In regards to those who are nervous about the idea of donating or worried about the pain, Cochran advises them to consider the impact that one donation can have on three recipients and their families.

“I would tell them, it's less than an hour of their time to come and donate that little bit, that little pinch. But then I think of the person in the hospital who's receiving it, I think of the recipient, the person that's going through a battle with cancer, who's been in a serious car accident, who's having surgery,” Cochran said. “I think that little pinch, we can handle that, we can handle a little pinch, to give to others, to help pay it forward with what we are able to give. Each donation gets separated into three parts and can save three lives.”

Throughout the pandemic, the need for blood has fluctuated and supplies reached emergency levels in May and June. As businesses reopen, more people are donating causing collection levels to meet hospital’s needs. 

The goal of the Valpo drive is one of the highest in all of Porter County and seeks to collect 145 pints. To achieve this, the goal is for 175 students and faculty to register. These donations would provide blood for close to 450 patients. Nationally, student participation is vital as students make up 20-25% of the blood donation supply. 

Registrants can select a time frame at redcrossblood.org using the sponsor code “valpouniv” or at https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/drive-results?zipSponsor=valpo.

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