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Red Cross testing for COVID-19 antibodies

Health officials hope to monitor the spread of the coronavirus and find out who may have been exposed.

SUNBURY, Pa. — A room inside the Human Services building in Sunbury was turned into a blood donation center on Wednesday as people rolled up their sleeves to help the American Red Cross.

In a few days, these blood donors will find out if they have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, the Red Cross started testing all blood, platelet, and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies.

RELATED: Red Cross begins testing blood donations for coronavirus antibodies

"We're doing this to provide information to our donors and also to public health organizations across the state and across the country so that we can get a sense and help people understand how many people have been impacted and have those antibodies," said Alana Mauger, Red Cross communications manager.

Antibodies are formed in your blood when fighting an infection. An antibody test determines whether your immune system has responded to the infection. If you have the COVID-19 antibody in your system, you may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

"In seven to ten days after their donation, they will receive an email, or they'll be able to go on to redcrossblood.org to look at their donor portal and will be able to see if they tested positive or negative for the antibody," Mauger said.

Mauger says the demand for blood has gone up by about 30 percent since hospitals started doing elective surgeries again.

"As a result, we are now saying we have an urgent need for donations, so we can try to avoid another blood shortage," Mauger said.

The Red Cross will be doing the antibody tests at least through summer. Mauger stressed this is not meant to serve as a diagnosis for COVID-19. If you have coronavirus symptoms, you should contact your doctor.