A record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arkansas is putting a strain on the state’s supply of convalescent plasma, one of the few treatments available for critically ill coronavirus patients.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday a total of 547 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number seen since the pandemic began. The state also saw its highest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases with 1,265 people testing positive.
In response, the Arkansas Blood Institute is calling for people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma, with just one donation able to help as many as four coronavirus patients. Executive director Mario Sedlock says the blood institute recently distributed 99 units of convalescent plasma to hospitals, the largest single-day usage in Arkansas since the pandemic began.
“Convalescent plasma has just added a completely new wrinkle… that we didn’t anticipate certainly, it’s something new for us. And that has challenged us to ensure that we can maintain an adequate supply,” Sedlock said. “We have seen, over the past few months, an increase of 700% for the need of convalescent plasma in our state.”
Sedlock says the cancellation of blood drives in school and office settings has put a further strain on the system.
“High schools and colleges account for roughly 25% of all of our blood collected, and at this time we would be counting on that support, especially as we get ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” Sedlock said. “Having that in jeopardy of losing a lot of those collections because of the coronavirus is really making things difficult for us right now.”
Sedlock says the state needs anywhere from 30 to 40 convalescent plasma donors each day to meet the growing demand. Donors must have had a positive COVID-19 test result, been symptom-free for 14 days and be at least 7 days past their last blood or plasma donation in order to qualify.
More information, including a full list of donation sites, can be found online at arkbi.org.