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Red Cross: Donating blood safe; need is great

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Apr 03, 2020
Courtesy of: Red Cross Blood donations are needed, and the Red Cross has put safeguards to protect donors and volunteer health, according to Mary Brandt of the Northern New England Region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and societies around the globe. It also led to the cancellation of 13,000 Red Cross blood drives across the U.S. during the three weeks ended April 1, according to Mary Brant, communications manager for the organization's Northern New England Region.

Brant said since the Red Cross put out an urgent call for donors, people in Maine and around the nation "have come out in great numbers," and she hopes they will keep coming, because even during a pandemic other types of emergencies continue to arise, and blood products are perishable, able to be stored only a matter of days or weeks.

She added that 13,000 units of blood are needed each day across the country by cancer patients, those undergoing surgery, crash victims and others.

Those who are looking for ways to help in this time of ongoing crisis might want to consider joining the 3% of Americans who donate blood.

In addition to its standard safety protocols, Brandt said, the Red Cross has implemented new procedures to protect donors, volunteers and staff from the coronavirus. She noted that "there is no 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 the coronavirus, worldwide."

Standard blood donation protocols include having those who interact directly with donors wear gloves and change them often, routinely disinfecting surfaces touched by donors, using sterile collection sets for each donation and preparing the arm where the needle is inserted for donation with an aseptic scrub.

In additon, Brandt said, the organization has instituted these precautions against transmission of COVID-19:

  • Checking the temperatures of staff and donors before they enter a donation site;
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering the drive, as well as throughout the donation process;
  • Having staff wear basic face masks;
  • Following social distancing practices between donors, including donor beds, as well as in the waiting and refreshment areas;
  • Enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment; and
  • Stressing the importance of appointments, to help manage the flow of donors and maintain required social distancing.

All types of blood are needed, Brandt said, with O positive, the most common type, and O negative the "universal donor," because it is the one type that is safe to give to anyone in an emergency, being particularly in demand.

In addition, the Red Cross needs locations for blood drives. Typical sites are church halls, VFWs, schools and the like. Organizations that want to offer their site for a drive can call 800-733-2767 or go online to redcrossblood.org; blood donation appointments may be made via the same phone number and website.

Brandt confirmed that blood drives are not considered mass gatherings for purposes of the governor's stay-at-home order, and donating blood is an essential reason to be away from one's home.

She said the organization is grateful for all the support it receives from the public. "The Red Cross is very fortunate to witness the best of humanity."

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