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There's a national shortage of blood — donate now and get a free COVID antibody test

June 18, 2020
4 min read
There's a national shortage of blood — donate now and get a free COVID antibody test
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Three months into the U.S. coronavirus lockdown, some of us no doubt have wondered if we've already gotten COVID-19 without knowing it. (Others of us have gone ahead and been tested for COVID-19 antibodiesthrice.)

Coronavirus testing, either for the disease itself or for the antibodies, hasn't been easy to come by. And unless you have a doctor's note ordering the test, you usually have to pay out of pocket for the test.

But the American Red Cross now offers a unique incentive for blood donors: Give blood, get a complimentary COVID antibody test. (Thanks to TPG reader Adam H. who first brought the fact to our attention.) A Red Cross representative confirmed to TPG that the initiative went into effect Monday, June 15.

"Free antibody testing for a limited time," the organization states on its website, citing an urgent need for blood and platelet donations. "For a limited time, the American Red Cross will test all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies as an additional health service to our donors. This testing will provide critical insight into whether donors may have possibly been exposed to this coronavirus."

Donors can look for their COVID-19 antibody test results within seven to 10 days, either via the donor app or their Red Cross account online. Other results can be viewed as well, including temperature, blood pressure, pulse check and iron levels.

The Red Cross uses a COVID-19 antibody test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the organization warned that donors should not utilize blood-drive facilities for free COVID-19 diagnoses. "If you feel unwell for any reason, please postpone your donation," the website warns. "Individuals who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should not present to donate until they are symptom free for 28 days and feeling well and healthy."

There's another factor to consider in your pursuit of a free COVID test: Blood donations are accepted through the Red Cross by appointment only — and you may not be able to get an appointment at all.

Despite the national shortage of blood, all of the blood drive locations within 50 miles of Austin, TX, were booked full through early July. For New Yorkers, a zip code search shows that the nearest blood donation centers accepting appointments this week are deep in New Jersey. A San Francisco search yielded similar results, while Los Angeles has one lone appointment for June 18: 12:30 p.m. at the YMCA on S. Sepulveda.

Sometimes websites aren't up to date. So I called the Red Cross hotline at 1-800-RED-CROSS to confirm that there were no appointments available in Austin. Sure enough, the next available appointment isn't until July 28. And even if I waited until then to donate blood, I would still have to wait about a week for my test results.

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So yes — you can now get a free COVID-19 antibody test through the Red Cross. But if you're in any kind of a hurry, you'll get quicker results going through a standard clinic. And if you have the ability to donate blood, please do so through other, more timely channels. (For my fellow Austinites, We Are Blood has three brick-and-mortar locations throughout the city, including a central location on North Lamar by Uchiko and Tacodeli.)

If you've already had and recovered from COVID-19, your antibody-laden plasma is in high demand: Please consider donating to help current patients fight the disease. (Look here for a list of locations accepting donations.)

Unfortunately, ignorance and discrimination still taints the blood donation industry. While all modern blood donations are thoroughly screened for more than a dozen diseases including HIV and hepatitis C before use, gay, bisexual and pansexual men are still banned from giving blood if they have recently had sex with another man, due to outdated policies dating back to the late 20th century when HIV and AIDS transmission was less understood.

This homophobic policy isn't only based on ignorance — the ban could cost a lot of lives right now, as a number of men in the LGBTQ+ community are willing to donate both much-needed blood as well as COVID-19 covalescent plasma.

Featured image by Image by Lumen Photos

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  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.