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What plasma donations could mean for the hardest-hit COVID-19 patients

A New York family pleads for COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma.

The son of a retired New York state investigator hopes the experimental treatment of convalescent plasma will help his father, who has been in the hospital for more than two weeks battling the coronavirus.

Those who have fully recovered from the coronavirus may be able to help patients fighting the virus by donating the convalescent plasma -- the clear, straw-colored liquid part of the blood that contains special proteins -- produced in their blood, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In order to be considered as a possible donor, a patient must be fully recovered for two weeks.

"Convalescent plasma can also be used to manufacture a biological product called hyperimmune globulin, which can similarly be used to treat patients with COVID-19," according to a statement issued by the FDA on Thursday that encourages recovered coronavirus patients to donate plasma.

Since the coronavirus' first outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December over 2.3 million people around the world have been diagnosed and over 592,000 have fully recovered. In the United States, over 732,000 people were diagnosed and over 64,000 have recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

Provisional death count data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control as of April 14 shows that people of color, who make up less than 40% of the United States population, are dying at a higher rate. According to the data, 16.6% of Hispanics and 17.9% of African Americans diagnosed with the coronavirus have died.

The demographic of coronavirus recoveries are not available.

What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • While plasma transfusions are still in the experimental stages to treat coronavirus patients, the Fernandez family are willing to take a chance to help Danny Fernandez.

    Danny Fernandez, a retired New York State senior investigator, has been on a ventilator in ICU at an Orange County hospital since April 1.

    "So far where it has been used, it is showing some success, so we are hopeful he has some success with it," Yesenia Fernandez told New York ABC station WABC on Friday.

    "It was experimental, and we didn't know of any donors personally, so we are trying to come out and get donors," Zachary Fernandez told WABC.

    Prior experience with respiratory viruses and limited data from China suggests that convalescent plasma has the potential to lessen the severity or shorten the length of illness caused by COVID-19, the FDA said.

    Blood donation organizations like New York Blood Center says on their website that they have received several inquiries from concerned people about how to get convalescent plasma donations to their specific loved one.

    "At this time, we are building a public bank of CP (convalescent plasma) and there is not an option to make a directed donation (making a donation for a specific patient)," according to the New York Blood Center.

    Unlike giving blood where it takes up to 15 minutes to donate, a plasma donation is more of a time commitment.

    After a blood is drawn from the arm, it "takes a spin" in a centrifuge to separate your plasma from other blood components. The plasma is collected in a separate bag and the remainder of your blood is returned to you. This cycle is repeated several times to generate the required volume of plasma," according to the New York Blood Center.

    The Fernandez family hopes someone steps up to donate soon.

    WABC's Tim Fleischer contributed to this report

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