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VERIFY: You will not get tested for the coronavirus when donating blood

A viral tweet spread a "loophole" that's not real and could be harmful to those trying to blood centers.
Credit: VERIFY

A recent tweet began with this: “CORONAVIRUS LOOPHOLE!!!!!” 

The message on Twitter went on to describe a process where one could get tested for COVID-19 for free when donating blood. That is if you can’t afford the normal test. 

The tweet urges people to tell their friends and family.

Credit: VERIFY

The tweet was later deleted, but not before going viral. It had around 300,000 likes and 100,000 retweets before it was deleted. It spread to other social media platforms and got attention there. Copycat tweets began popping up.

So the claim is now floating out there, regardless if the original tweet is or not. And it includes harmful misinformation. 

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THE QUESTION

Can you donate blood to get tested for the coronavirus if you can’t afford it normally?

THE ANSWER

Don’t do this. You will not get tested for the virus which causes COVID-19 when donating blood. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The Red Cross does test your blood for certain infectious diseases when you donate -- but the diseases they check for are transmitted in blood. COVID-19 is not on the list.

Other respiratory illnesses, like the cold or flu, are mentioned on the Red Cross’ website, but they are listed as reasons you shouldn’t donate blood. In general, the Red Cross urges you to wait if you do not feel well on the day you’re scheduled to give a donation. In fact, you’re not allowed to donate blood if you have a fever or productive cough.

However, America’s Blood Centers urge healthy people to continue donating blood as normal. They say they’re experiencing a decrease in donations and a cancellation of blood drives nationwide as coronavirus fears spread. 

They said, “It is safe to donate blood. The coronavirus does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives.”

The Red Cross echoes that. When VERIFY reached out to them by email they said, “there is no test to screen blood donations for the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses. It’s important to emphasize that there are no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusions, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide.”

That’s why blood centers won’t test for the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control believes it spreads through respiratory droplets, not blood.

As for the costs of getting tested, it varies from person to person. But currently the federal government is working with insurance companies to keep the costs down.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a press briefing earlier this week, “All of our major health insurance companies have now joined with Medicare and Medicaid and agreed to waive co-pays and cover the cost of all treatment for those who contract the coronavirus. They’ve committed to no surprise billing and they’ve committed to encourage telemedicine.”

So if your doctor orders a test, you shouldn’t need to pay a co-pay for that test and the treatment should be covered.

The CDC said the test is “free of charge” at public testing laboratories. That means if a doctor at a testing lab orders the test, it shouldn’t cost anything for people who are uninsured. There may be costs associated with a doctor or hospital visit though.

So let’s summarize. Blood centers will not test you for the coronavirus when you donate, you aren’t supposed to donate blood if you feel sick, it’s safe to donate blood if you’re healthy, insurance companies are waiving any costs associated with coronavirus testing and treatment and the CDC test itself is free at public testing laboratories.