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DeSantis urges Floridians with COVID antibodies to give plasma

Plasma therapy is an experimental practice that uses blood taken from people who have recovered from a viral infection and injects it into those who are still sick.

Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday urged Floridians who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood so that their convalescent plasma can be used in treating sick patients across the state.

“So many Floridians have asked what else can I do to be helpful in the fight against COVID-19?” DeSantis said at a news conference at blood donation company OneBlood’s headquarters in Orlando.

OneBlood CEO and Sunny Isles Beach Mayor George “Bud” Scholl said Monday that there is a 500 percent increase in demand from hospitals for convalescent plasma.

Plasma therapy is an experimental practice that uses blood taken from people who have recovered from a viral infection and injects it into those who are still sick. The treatment has been used in patients during recent infectious outbreaks like Ebola, SARS and H1N1 influenza.

OneBlood, a blood bank that also serves all of the hospitals in South Florida, collects convalescent plasma donations seven days a week and screens interested donors to make sure they qualify.

OneBlood spokeswoman Susan Forbes said the demand has spiked in recent months as COVID-19 cases rise. She said OneBlood is shipping out orders at a nearly constant rate, distributing thousands of units of plasma since April.

“Over the past couple weeks as the numbers surge in Florida, the need for convalescent plasma is surging right along with it,” she said. “There is no end in sight at this point.”

Experts say plasma contains antibodies that could help someone fight off the infection and possibly lessen the infection’s severity while the world waits for more effective treatments and a vaccine to be created. In April, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of plasma for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

However, others note some of the risks that come with plasma therapy. Dr. Timothy Schacker, the vice dean for research at the University of Minnesota, told the Miami Herald earlier this year that a main risk is accidentally giving a sick patient an unknown infectious disease or malady the donor may be carrying in their blood.

Dr. Michael Farzan, co-chair of Scripps College’s Immunology and Microbiology department in Claremont, California, told the Herald that when it comes to coronaviruses, transmitting the wrong kind of antibody to a patient could enhance the infection, but that those errors generally happen in vaccines, not convalescent serums like plasma therapies.

In Florida, the number of infected patients continue to rise.

The Florida Department of Health Monday confirmed 10,347 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the total to 360,394.

There were also 90 new Florida resident deaths announced, bringing the statewide resident death toll to 5,072. Two new non-resident deaths were announced in the state, bringing the non-resident death toll to 111.

The rise in cases has drawn scrutiny of the governor for his decisions to reopen businesses, hold in-person press conferences and most recently, mandate that schools reopen five days a week come fall.

He was pressed on school reopenings at the Monday press conference, a decision from which he distanced himself.

The emergency order was issued by Department of Education Secretary Richard Corcoran, who DeSantis appointed.

“I didn’t do an executive order, that was the Department of Education,” DeSantis said.

The order issued by Corcoran cites DeSantis’ emergency powers as justification.

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