Coronavirus News: New Jersey hospital gives first dose of convalescent plasma to COVID-19 patient

RIDGEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- Doctors at Valley Health System in New Jersey announced they have given the first dose of convalescent plasma therapy to a COVID-19 patient.

The therapy that has been used to fight major illnesses dating back 100 years, and now it's just a matter of time before doctors know if it is a step in the right direction during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Neil Gaffin, an infectious disease specialist at Valley Hospital, said the therapy has been used in pandemics including the 1918 Spanish flu and the SARS outbreak.

He says it works like this: A COVID-19 patient is infused with the plasma from an individual who has recovered from the infection. The hope is the antibodies boost the infected patient's immune system to help fight the virus.

"These antibodies are thought to be the major mediators of immunity against the the virus, we don't know all of the specifics, but that's the theory behind this," Gaffin said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy warns that reopening the economy and relaxing social distancing too early could backfire.

This weekend, his team focused on planning how to keep people safe once state leaders begin to life restrictions.

Murphy said he is on board with Gov. Andrew Cuomo who is asking for a regional approach to decisions being made such as continuing closures schools.

"This weekend, discussions with our neighboring states on the whole question of testing, contact tracing, what are the rules of the road going to be for things like bars and restaurants to make sure we don't have unintended consequences on one side of the river verses the other," Murphy said.

Murphy has a call scheduled with the White House Monday to discuss getting more PPE and ventilators for the Garden State.

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