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Health Ministry forecasts surge in deaths in next 10 days

Seriously ill COVID-19 patient, 29, treated with plasma from Jerusalem donor

Woman who recovered from disease donates blood with virus-fighting antibody for infusion

A Magen David Adom worker outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, April 10, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, April 10, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Medical personnel scrambled to treat a seriously ill 29-year-old COVID-19 patient with a plasma donation in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Magen David Adom emergency services and the Health Ministry obtained a plasma sample with the coronavirus antibody from a Jerusalem woman who recovered from the infection. Plasma is a liquid component of blood that contains antibodies that fight off disease.

MDA brought the woman in an ambulance to a blood services center on Friday afternoon to make the donation. A special team collected the sample and brought the woman’s plasma to a lab, which carried out tests on the sample and prepared it for transfusion.

The Health Ministry approved the transfer of the plasma to Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, where the patient is being treated. The plasma is expected to be administered to the patient Saturday morning.

On Tuesday the 29-year-old’s condition deteriorated and he was sedated and put on a respirator. He had been admitted to the hospital after feeling ill for a week.

Plasma is being used to treat serious cases of COVID-19 on an experimental basis. It has been shown effective in treating other infectious diseases, like polio, measles and influenza.

Magen David Adom workers move a patient outside the new coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, April 3, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

MDA is seeking more plasma samples from donors who have recovered from the disease and are at least 14 days into their recovery.

Israel’s youngest fatality from the disease so far was a 37-year-old who died on Tuesday at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. Officials said he had suffered from multiple, complex preexisting ailments and that he had been hospitalized for about a week.

Israeli health officials are meanwhile expecting a surge in coronavirus deaths in the next 10 days, according to a Friday report.

The rise in deaths does not signify an increase in infections, however.

Patients who are already hospitalized and on respirators are likely to succumb to the virus in the coming days, according to predictive models from the Health Ministry, Channel 13 reported.

In another worrying development, two medical staffers were diagnosed with COVID-19, officials said Friday.

A specialist doctor at the Reut Medical Center in Tel Aviv was confirmed infected. The hospital said she had been in home quarantine for six days. The hospital was carrying out contact tracing and had told members of her team to self-isolate.

The army commander of a quarantine hostel in northern Israel was diagnosed on Friday. The officer, identified as Lt. Col. Eitan, had been managing the facility for 10 days. He was not experiencing symptoms and was in home isolation, Walla news reported.

Medical workers wearing full protective clothing at a site to collect samples for coronavirus testing in south Tel Aviv on April 6, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The entire Home Front Command staff at the hostel was also removed to quarantine as a precautionary measure. It was replaced by a team of officers and soldiers who were kept separate from the hostel but prepared ahead of time for the job if the need arose.

On Friday the national death toll from the virus rose to 95, with nine new deaths reported by the Health Ministry over the last 24 hours.

As of Saturday, the number of confirmed cases was 10,505. Of those cases, 191 were in serious condition, including 132 on ventilators. Another 152 people were in moderate condition, with the rest having mild symptoms. So far 1,236 have recovered from the illness.

Almost all of those who have died from COVID-19 in Israel have been elderly and suffered from preexisting conditions, according to hospital officials.

While the death toll has continued to steadily climb, experts have pointed to the relatively slow rise in the number of patients on ventilators as a source of potential encouragement.

Putting a dent in the optimism, health officials are projecting that Israel will fall short of testing 10,000 people a day for the coronavirus in the immediate term because of a shortage of a key reagent.

A national lockdown barring intercity travel came into effect Tuesday ahead of the Passover holiday and was lifted Friday morning. Separately, a curfew was maintained over the first night of the holiday on Wednesday, to prevent further spread of the virus, and lifted at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.

More than 100,000 people have died globally of the coronavirus.

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