South Carolina governor donates plasma for COVID-19 therapy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife donated plasma Friday to help patients who have COVID-19 recover more quickly from the disease.

McMaster and the first lady contracted COVID-19 in December and doctors encourage people who recover from the disease to donate the blood product.

The plasma is then transfused into the bodies of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients to lessen their symptoms and hopefully help them recover faster.

“We were lucky, I had a light case, I guess,” McMaster said Friday outside the Red Cross Columbia headquarters. “They need plasma, so we’re here.”

McMaster was inside for almost two hours. The 73-year-old Republican governor had to pass a health screening and then spend almost an hour with a needle in his arm.

A machine drew the blood from his vein. Inside, the plasma was removed and replaced with saline and then sent back down the tube and into his arm, Red Cross South Carolina CEO Rod Tolbert said.

McMaster’s plasma could help up to four patients. It will join 2,600 units of plasma from COVID-19 patients donated in South Carolina and 140,000 units donated nationally, Tolbert said.

The plasma has a short shelf life of less than a week, but with COVID-19, the Red Cross gets it out to hospitals almost as soon as it is packaged, Tolbert said.

“We’re using it,” Tolbert said. “Demand is up over 250% since October.”

While similar to donating blood, there are some different criteria for donating plasma for COVID-19. Tolbert said people can take a screening test online at the organization’s website.

But once they are approved, people can donate plasma once a week up to eight times, Tolbert said.

McMaster and his wife smiled for cameras and chatted in nearby beds as their blood was drawn. It was the only event on his public schedule for Friday.

“I can’t give any if I’m not here,” the governor said. “It is not something you can do virtually”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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