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June 05th, 2020

covid 19 blood donationThe need for blood donations is constant throughout the world and with the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, the need for donations for patients is steadily increasing. Courtesy photoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

The need for blood donations is ever present, and even during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, emergencies don’t stop.

Neither does the Red Cross, as hospital patients still need life-saving blood. Since its inception earlier this year, the coronavirus has spread to many parts of the world, including many parts of America, and Red Cross External Communications Manager Jan Hale said while any time is a good time to give blood, the need for it is currently quite urgent. 

While the urgency to give blood may seem to be heightened with COVID-19, Hale said donations were needed before coronavirus, and they will be needed afterwards.

“I think it is as important as it has always been,” she said. “These times are so uncertain and difficult.”

Hale said when COVID-19 first became a problem, many people did not realize how it would affect blood donation.

“We’ve been very grateful for people who have continued to come out and donate because the reality is regardless of what’s going on, regardless of the pandemic, every two seconds, we know someone in our country needs blood,” she said. “Unfortunately, the only way we’ve got it available to give to patients is for someone to roll up their sleeve and donate.”

As expected, Hale said coronavirus has put an additional strain on an already low blood supply.

 

“It has been pretty difficult,” she said. “We have had quite a few canceled blood drives and the associated number of donations we are not able to collect.”

With the school year canceled through May and June, Hale said a large number of Red Cross’ blood donors are gone, and the summer months will put more strain on the supply.

“I think the interesting thing for people to remember is 20 percent of our blood donations come from high schools and colleges,” she said. “We know those are not going to be available this spring. We’re urging people if they’re well and healthy to find a location to donate either now or know that this crisis is not over. We’re in a marathon and not a sprint.”

Hale said the Red Cross is getting some help, though.

“We have quite a few of our sponsors step up,” she said. “We certainly understand those drives that have had to be canceled. We absolutely get that. We’ve got businesses whose employees are working from home. We’ve talked about the high schools and the colleges, but we’ve also had some sponsors that have been able to continue with their blood drive. We’ve been able to find different community locations for those who have had to cancel.”

When considering giving blood, Hale urged potential donors to make an appointment and check to make sure scheduled drives are still taking place.

“Things are changing, and we would hope to be able to let those donors who have an appointment know if something changed,” she said. “Check the Web site. Check redcrossblood.org, or if you’ve downloaded the app, check that, or you can call us at 1-800-RED-CROSS as it gets close to time for your drive just to make sure everything is still the same.”

Hale said with COVID-19 making headlines everywhere, many people are concerned about getting out, and others are concerned about the safety of donating. She said, however, the process of giving is as safe as, if not safer than, it was before coronavirus.

“We’ve even instituted some additional safety measures to even further protect our donors and our staff,” she said. “People will notice that before they go into the drive, they’ll have their temperature checked.”

Hale said at drives, Red Cross staff and donors are liberally using hand sanitizer before, during and after the donation.

“Our donors will notice that our staff is taking particular care with increased disinfecting of surfaces and equipment,” she said. “They’ll notice they’re wiping down the beds in between donors, and they’ll notice the different setup.”

With social distancing part of the guidelines for handling COVID-19, Hale said the public can help blood drive workers there, and this is part of the reason appointments are encouraged.

“It helps us manage the flow of donors,” she said. “We get too many bottled up, and that’s too hard to maintain the social distancing. Making appointments, knowing who’s coming and when they’re coming helps to manage the flow so we can follow the social distancing protocols between donors.”

Under mandates to limit public events to gatherings of 50 or less, some as low as 10, blood drives are considered essential infrastructure, and Hale said the Red Cross always wants to be careful with public health guidance.

“We do have to be as careful with those 10, but we do have to be very careful with the social distancing,” she said. “We’re trying very hard to limit the number of people who are at the blood drive at a given time, so again, making those appointments helps with that.”

Above all else, Hale wants to remind donors that giving blood is a safe process.

“We need their donation, and if it’s not a good time at a drive that’s coming up, we’re going to need them on down the road,” she said. “This is going to be a long, long haul, and even in the best of times, we know we’re entering the summer months with all the incumbent difficulties we have with blood donations around that time of year. If you’re comfortable, if you’re well, if you’re healthy, find that blood drive and make an appointment. If it’s next week or the next week or the end of the month or even into May, know that donation is going to be just as needed.”

April and May are typically the times of year when high schools and colleges are doing their last blood drive of the year, and with education not taking place at this time, Hale said those drives will not be available, leaving much of the potential blood donor supply untapped.

“That’s where we’re going to be asking our donors to maybe not today, maybe this week is not a good time, but moving forward, please remember how important it is to make that blood donation appointment and give,” she said.

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