With the closures of the churches and schools statewide, the Oklahoma Blood Institute is in need of donations more than ever. The Blood Can’t Wait blood drive sponsored by Mercy Hospital Logan County is on Thursday, April 2 from noon to 6 p.m. Appointments can be made online via the Oklahoma Blood Institute website or by calling 1-877-340-8777.
Julie D. Gimmel, blood program consultant, said thousands of planned donations are at risk because of cancellations from coronavirus concerns, and it’s critically important for donors to continue coming to blood drives and donor centers for their regular donations. Blood donation is an essential health care activity.
“That’s why it’s important for people, if they’re feeling well, to come out and donate, because drives that we would ordinarily have at those locations have been cancelled,” Gimmel said. “We’re trying to catch up for lost donations. An example would be that we were going to be on campus at the University of Oklahoma for a week-long blood drive, starting next week, and because school is out—we won’t be there at all—so all of those donations that we were going to have from OU, and also OSU, they’re gone.”
In order to avoid a blood supply crisis, the public’s help is needed. Patients need blood products every day for chemotherapy treatments, trauma situations, neonatal care and more. If patients quit donating or postpone their donations, OBI’s blood supply could be in crisis. Blood is a perishable product that requires continual donations to ensure a healthy supply.
Due to COVID-19, donor centers and mobile blood drives have been adjusted to allow space for social distancing. On bloodmobiles, staff are placing donors to allow for maximum distance between visitors and all donors will have their temperature taken before entering the blood donor area. Gimmel said it is also strongly encouraged to make appointments to help OBI manage how many donors are present at one time.
“We really want to limit the amount of people on the bloodmobile, which is why we’re encouraging people to make an appointment and come out. That way, we’re able to keep the flow so that there aren’t more than six or seven people on a bloodmobile at a time.”
Extra safety and cleaning processes have been implemented at donor centers and mobile drives, to help ensure the safety of those visiting. Staff have also been instructed to stay home if they’re feeling unwell. In addition, OBI screens all donor services staff at the beginning of their shift, taking temperatures to ensure no one has a fever or feels ill.
The Food & Drug Administration reports no cases of COVID-19 transmitted through blood transfusion, and respiratory viruses generally are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion.
Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through the blood or blood donations. In similar respiratory illness outbreaks like SARS or MERS, no evidence of transmissions through blood products was seen.
For those that have traveled recently, Gimmel said the FDA has not come out with any guidelines for blood donation as far as travel.
“For us, it’s about [if] you are feeling well today, and of course if a person traveled to a place that is already a deferral in our system then they would be deferred. We have no new deferrals for travel.”
OBI would like Oklahomans to know if members of our communities are looking for ways to help during these uncertain and challenging times, blood donation is a safe and easy way to help your neighbors and ensure the health of our local blood supply. Blood donation typically takes about an hour and a single donation saves up to three lives. Please visit www.yourbloodinstitute.org to find a donor center or schedule your appointment for April 2.