ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A public-private initiative will provide $4 million to a Johns Hopkins University-led team to study therapeutic uses of blood plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Gov. Larry Hogan, and Johns Hopkins University announced Friday.

Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, is leading the effort. In recent weeks, he has led a team from around the nation to create a network of hospitals and blood banks that can start collecting and processing the plasma from COVID-19 survivors.

Researchers hope to use the technique to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. They also hope to use it to boost the immune systems of health care providers and first responders. Currently, there are no proven drug therapies or effective vaccines for treating COVID-19.

“As scientists work to develop a vaccine, plasma treatment has the potential to save many lives – including the lives of doctors and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former Mayor of New York City.

At Johns Hopkins, the team plans to measure the effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma and monitor the safety of the therapy in a clinical trial for both treatment of COVID-19 positive patients at all stages of disease progression, as well as prevention of infection after high-risk exposure.

The funding consists of a $3 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies and $1 million from the state of Maryland, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Maryland officials announced the fifth death in the state from the new coronavirus on Friday. The state has reported at least 774 confirmed cases.

Maryland officials also released the range of ages of people who have been confirmed to have the virus in the state. People between the ages of 40 and 49 had the highest number with 161. People 50 to 59 had the second-highest amount with 149. The age group of 30 to 39 had the third highest: 136 cases.

Younger people had the fewest number of cases. For children up to nine years of age, there have been four reported cases in Maryland. There have been 11 cases for people between the ages of 10 and 19. The number increases significantly for people between the ages of 20 and 29, who have had a total of 107 cases in the state.

People between 60 and 69 have had 110 cases in Maryland, and people between 70 and 79 have had 75 cases. There have been 21 cases of people 80 and over who have been confirmed to have the virus.

For most people, the new virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

___

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.