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In this file photo, Supervisor Mick Gleason and Mike Maggard listen to a presentation.

The Kern County Public Health Services Department will begin developing a convalescent plasma donation program after a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Convalescent plasma, the liquid part of blood that's collected from individuals who have recovered from the coronavirus, is believed to show promise in aiding the fight against COVID-19. Although the federal government hasn't approved a treatment for the disease yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says some evidence suggests the antibodies present in the substance may help people trying to recover from the virus.

Supervisor Mike Maggard said about 4,300 people had recovered from the coronavirus in Kern County, yet only 37 had donated convalescent plasma.

“If 4,300 are available to do this and only 37 have done it, there is a vast difference those 4,300 people could make in the lives of hundreds if not thousands of other people,” he said during Tuesday morning's board meeting.

Currently, local blood banks can accept convalescent plasma donations, and state officials have been reaching out to some in Kern County encouraging donations, but the county’s program could more extensively encourage others to come forward.

“Every plasma donation can benefit four different patients, so that is something that could be very helpful to people in our community,” said Kim Hernandez, the county health department's lead epidemiologist.

The health department plans on returning to the board in two weeks with an update on the plan's development. Supervisors seemed keen to pursue the issue.

“We’ve had blood drives at the county before,” said Supervisor Leticia Perez, who thanked Maggard for his efforts. “I think we can organize something that encourages people safely to think of their neighbors as themselves.”

In addition to convalescent plasma donations, supervisors also took up standard COVID-19 tests at their meeting. The stark increase in volume of tests over the last few weeks has resulted in reporting delays, the health department reported. Supervisor Leticia Perez said she took a coronavirus test and waited more than two weeks for a response.

The health department now says it receives results five to seven days after the tests have been given. Public Health Services Assistant Director Brynn Carrigan said the entire state was experiencing such delays.

“It’s something that continues to be a source of a little bit of frustration in the community,” said Supervisor Zack Scrivner, asking if the county could do anything to speed up the results.

Given the likelihood that demand for tests will remain high over the next few weeks, if not months, few answers were given Tuesday.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

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