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For a limited time, The American Red Cross is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for novel coronavirus antibodies.

The presence of antibodies indicates a person has been exposed to the virus. It's not yet know whether that provides a patient with a level of immunity, or for how long.

Alana Mauger, Biomedical Communications Manager for The American Red Cross of New Jersey, said individuals and public health organizations are looking for more information about the virus. But Mauger said it's important to know this is not a diagnostic test — it doesn't determine whether a person is currently infected with the coronavirus.

Donations will be tested using samples pulled at the time of blood donation and sent to a testing laboratory, where they will also undergo routine infectious disease testing.

Testing will continue throughout the summer and then the program will be re-evaluated once the fall arrives. Mauger said she hopes the fact that The American Red Cross is testing blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies will encourage more people to come out and give blood.

She said blood donations are desperately needed throughout the summer. In March, there was a shortage but the need was met. But in the past few weeks, hospitals have resumed elective surgeries and treatments that require blood products.

While all blood types are needed, O-positive and O-negative blood types are crucial. O-positive is the most commonly transfused blood type and O-negative can be given to recipients of any blood type.

To find a Red Cross blood donation site near you, go to redcrossblood.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or download the free blood donor app.

Appointments must be made. Face masks must be worn. Social distancing is a must. Mauger said more blood drives will be added throughout the summer.

All donors who give blood during the month of June will receive a $5 Amazon gift card via e-mail.

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