Doctors across the country are studying whether transfusions of antibody-rich plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can be an effective therapy for those actively suffering from the disease, and local residents can indirectly help in that effort.

Dr. Walter E. Kelley is the American Red Cross medical director in Idaho, as well as a doctor of osteopathic medicine and an assistant professor of pathology at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine. He said that even though the Red Cross Blood Donation Center at 508 Thain Road in Lewiston doesn’t have the technical ability to collect “convalescent plasma” for a nationwide investigation of the therapy, donations of whole blood and red blood cells are still hugely valuable.

“The more individuals that donate there in Lewiston, the less pressure there is on places like New Jersey, for example, to collect whole blood so more emphasis can be put on collecting convalescent plasma with the machines we have there,” Kelley said.

Meanwhile, a probable case of COVID-19 was reported in Latah County on the Public Health – Idaho North Central District website Wednesday. The person with the probable case is a male between the ages of 10 to 19. No other details were provided.

This is the first probable case in Latah County, which previously reported five confirmed cases. Idaho County is still at three confirmed cases, and Nez Perce County has 70 confirmed cases, nine probable cases and 19 deaths.

No new cases were reported in Asotin, Garfield and Whitman counties in Washington.

The convalescent plasma initiative started at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota under the direction of principal investigator Dr. Michael Joyner and is sanctioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Red Cross collected and transfused its first unit of convalescent plasma in April and has ramped up quickly to help supply the initiative.

The therapy is especially attractive since it is based on the common, relatively safe procedure of plasma transfusion. Other prospective therapies for COVID-19, like the use of the malaria drug chloroquine, have proven to be far riskier.

“Transfusion is very, very safe,” Kelley said. “Literally millions of people receive transfusions in the United States every year.”

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 can visit www.redcrossblood.org to complete an online screening to see if they are eligible to donate. Generally, they have to be older than 17, meet weight requirements and be fully recovered. Kelley said the nearest Red Cross blood donation center to Lewiston that can collect convalescent plasma is in Boise.

But he noted that hospitals participating in the investigation can order convalescent plasma now. The patient or their medical decision maker has to provide consent, then all their doctor has to do is order a unit from the Red Cross.

“The goal is to be able to provide that quickly,” Kelley said. “We would love to be able to provide that in a day, or a day and a half at the most.”

The Moscow Police Department announced that it will postpone and possibly cancel the annual Officer Newbill Kids Safety Fair. The fair takes place on the first Saturday of June and gives families an opportunity to access resources to help protect their children.

This year’s event was scheduled for June 6. The board of directors for the event is working to see if an alternative date can be found, according to a news release. If not, the event will resume next year.

Joel Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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