Aiken's municipal building received plenty of extra pedestrian traffic Friday, as the host site of an American Red Cross blood drive

The process for the public was to begin at 9 a.m., and would-be donors were lined up at least a few minutes before then. Donations continued until just past 5 p.m., with about 75 pints being collected along the way.

Among the more experienced donors was Jim Wilder, who said he normally gives via Shepeard Community Blood Center, "but this was the Red Cross today, so we thought we'd give them some blood, because they have different needs, I guess, than Shepeard."

Antibody testing, he said, caught his attention. "That is a plus. We're all curious as to what this COVID(-19) thing's all about, so that's one insight that we might gain from today's donation."

Wilder, an independent engineer, said his blood donations date back to about 1984, when he got on board with blood drives held at the Savannah River Site.

Phlebotomist Linda Domino said the day's production exceeded the goal, which one of her peers said was 50 pints. "The day went great," she confirmed.

The less-experienced participants included Jami Thomas, a second-time donor who also acknowledged antibody testing. "I feel like I haven't had any symptoms, and so I think it's really important to know, so we can protect ourselves and be conscious of others, too."

When asked about the process as a whole, she said, "Honestly, from beginning to end, from 1 to 10, a 10."

Thomas gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Linda, the phlebotomist who handled her donation process. "She was an excellent representative for the American Red Cross."

The day's last donor, with several donations in her background, was Augusta resident Nadia Armstrong, who is studying electrical engineering at Georgia Southern University. The "labor of love," as she described it, was motivated by the ongoing need.

"I know it can be very helpful for some people, especially when there's a shortage, because of some great need somewhere, and so it's always good to have more than you need."

The Mayo Clinic's website offers some insight on the antibody testing that is now being offered – "a blood test that's done to find out if you've had a past infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)."

It notes than an antibody test cannot determine whether or not the person being tested is currently infected with COVID-19.

It also reports, "Antibodies may be detected in your blood for several weeks after you recover from COVID-19. Although these antibodies might provide some immunity to the COVID-19 virus, there's currently not enough evidence to know how long these antibodies last or whether past infection with the virus protects you from getting another infection. Studies on COVID-19 antibodies are ongoing to learn more about immunity."

The concept of blood plasma donations by people who have recovered from COVID-19 has been prominent recently and was discussed in a White House statement July 30. It pointed out that the Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to do clinical evaluations of efficacy data and that "a large Mayo Clinic study found that the use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 is safe, and preliminary results suggest a lower mortality rate for COVID-19 patients when plasma is administered early in the disease course."

The next Red Cross drives set to be in Aiken County are Aug. 14, at Aiken Regional Medical Centers; and Aug. 28, in Graniteville, at the Aiken County YMCA, on Trolley Line Road, near USC Aiken.

The closest Red Cross collection center to Aiken is in Columbia, at 2751 Bull Street. Another option for donors is Shepeard Community Blood Center's Aiken facility, at 353 Fabian Drive, in Hitchcock Plaza.