Overwhelming turnout leads to additional blood drives, antibody tests

After what was described as an overwhelming and unprecedented public response by St. Charles Parish communications director Samantha de Castro that led to walk-up donors being turned away at its July 8 blood drive in Luling, two more drives have been scheduled in August.

The dates for those events will be Aug. 10 and Aug. 24 at the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center in Luling. The blood drives are being held through a partnership with Ochsner.

The July 8 drive was scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but the turnout was so large that the drive’s capacity was hit just 30 minutes after opening. A significant draw for many donors can likely be tied to an added incentive for those participating: blood given would be tested for COVID-19 antibodies free of charge, with each donor to be contacted thereafter for the result.

“The unexpectedly high turnout prompted us to set up two additional opportunities for residents to donate blood and become eligible to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies,” de Castro said. “So many people showed up that we had to close turn nearly 50 people away. We had no idea that many people would want to donate but it makes sense. People who donate blood regularly haven’t had the opportunity to do so and a number of people who haven’t donated in a while or who normally don’t donate were eager to participate due to the antibody testing availability.”

She said reservations will be required for each of the upcoming blood drives and confirmed antibody testing will be once again available on both days. Donors will have their temperature taken before entering the building and will not be permitted to enter if their temperature is 100.4 or higher. All donors will be required to wear a mask or face covering, and if one does not have a mask, Ochsner will provide one.

The drives are being held as blood banks nationwide are experiencing a critical shortage of blood. All types are needed, with platelets and Type O red cells in particular shortage.

Given the nature of the COVID-19 virus, with symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers each represented among those who have been infected, antibody testing has been sought for those who do not know if they’ve contracted the virus already and thus may have developed a level of immunity. While the presence of COVID antibodies indicate a person has had the illness, Ochsner warns it does not guarantee immunity or protection from future infection, nor how long any immunity may last.

Each donor at these blood drives will have a small amount of the blood collected separately tested for COVID antibodies. All participants notified of the results by mail. To be eligible for the test, the blood or platelet donation must be successful.


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