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Is There a COVID-19 ‘Loophole’ in Blood Donations?

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A test for COVID-19 is mandatory for anyone seeking to donate blood.

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For a brief period of time, a Twitter user’s admittedly “bold and brash” — but wrong — idea about a “loophole” allowing people more access to testing for COVID-19 got widespread traction on the platform.

On March 9 2020, the user wrote, “If you don’t have insurance and can’t afford to take the $3,200 test for the virus ($1,000 with insurance), DONATE BLOOD. They HAVE to test you for the virus in order to donate blood. Tell your friends! Tell your family!!”

In reality, there is no “loophole” involving blood donations and tests for the virus. A statement from America’s Blood Centers (ABC), a network of non-profit blood centers active in 45 American states as well as in the Canadian province of Quebec, addresses exactly that:

“Blood centers are not healthcare providers and thus do not provide coronavirus tests,” the group said:

Blood centers do however screen all donors to make sure they are healthy and eligible to donate. Each donor also goes through a mini physical that includes a temperature check as well as a visual check on the donor’s well-being.

Both that group and the American Red Cross are encouraging healthy individuals to donate blood. “We are facing a national blood supply issue. As coronavirus fears intensify, blood centers around the country are experiencing a significant decrease in donations and blood drives are being canceled,” said chief executive officer Kate Fry.

AABB, the not-for-profit group formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, released a separate statement further debunking the idea of a connection between blood donation and the virus:

Individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 through the blood donation process or via a blood transfusion, since respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by donation or transfusion. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to report that there have been no reported or suspected cases of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19 to date. In addition, no cases of transfusion-transmission were ever reported for the other two coronaviruses that emerged during the past two decades (SARS, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, and MERS-CoV, which causes Mideast Respiratory Syndrome).

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The original poster subsequently not only deleted her comment, but retracted it and recanted as well.

“My coworker told me this,” she later explained. “Listen a lot of young ppl I know can’t afford insurance myself included this was honestly just a bold and brash idea being tweeted without really thinking and [obviously] not thinking it’d get this popular.”

Nevertheless, the original continues to circulate in screenshot form in perpetuity.