Blood needed more than ever during pandemic

Blood donations are still a necessity during COVID-19 and a safe activity according to officials

VANCOUVER — “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

The 20th Surgeon General of the United States of America, Jerome Michael Adams, said just that last month. He spoke to the American people from the White House on the matter of blood donations. 

“You can still go out and give blood,” he said. “We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future.”

Blood donations are down due to COVID-19, and are needed now more than ever according to Bloodworks Northwest. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com
Blood donations are down due to COVID-19, and are needed now more than ever according to Bloodworks Northwest. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

At what many believe to be the possible approaching height of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic, blood donations are hit or miss across the country. The Seattle Times reported Bloodworks Northwest has seen a 25 percent drop in March alone, due to the cessation of their mobile bus blood drives at high schools per social distancing guidelines and school closures.

At what many believe to be the possible approaching height of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, blood donations are hit or miss across the country.

“We normally get quite a bit of blood from high schools, which is pretty great. About 18 percent nationally of blood that comes from … high school students,” said Mobile Operations Lead for Bloodworks’ Vancouver Donor Center Jacob Cole. “We would be going to several high schools a week and then around 100 people each day, that we’re not getting. So we really are a little on the low end.”

Cole explained that Bloodworks is still operating an off-site donation location at Coyote’s Bar and Grill in Hillsboro. The location will serve as the Bloodworks home-base for Portland for the time being.   

Bloodworks in Vancouver is the official source of blood for all hospitals in Clark County, as well as many Legacy and Providence hospitals in Oregon. In 2020, they expect to supply over 45,000 units of blood to patients all over the region.

Right now, Bloodworks along with The Red Cross, are stressing the importance of giving blood as life continues on the course of stay-home orders and social distancing. The Bloodworks Vancouver Donor Center near the Vancouver Mall remains open and accepts appointments for various donations.

“Red [blood] cells only last 42 days, but hospitals are always waiting for the blood to be delivered there. It goes so quickly, so there’s never like an overflow of blood coming into the blood banks. It goes off as fast as it comes in,” Cole said. “[Blood] platelets have a shelf life of only five days. After testing, they only basically have three days of usage, because you have to go through 24 hours of testing and then go through to be transported to one of the hospitals that we service.”

Donation facilities are thoroughly sanitized between donors and after each day. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com
Donation facilities are thoroughly sanitized between donors and after each day. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is one of those hospitals that depends on Bloodworks for blood.

“The spread of COVID-19 has not reduced our need for these blood products,” PeaceHealth said in an email statement to ClarkCountyToday.com. “As the majority of our need is for our trauma cases. PeaceHealth Southwest’s Level II trauma center provides care for most of the traumatic injury cases in our region, and those cases continue to occur despite COVID-19. We encourage people to continue to donate to meet the ongoing need.” 

The Vancouver Donor Center is currently open Wednesday through Sunday several hours each day for whole blood and apheresis donations. Everyday the facility is thoroughly sanitized and cleaned. Each donor has his or her temperature taken prior to giving blood, and social distancing of six feet is adhered to.

“Our staff here are amazing. Everyone is safe to come in here to donate, we sanitize everything between each and every donor,” Cole said. “We schedule space out to accommodate for the six foot distance between everyone at all times, and so we do scheduled appointments here on our website or when they call our phone number.”

The Red Cross recently announced the possibility of fully recovered COVID-19 patients having the opportunity to donate blood plasma to current COVID-19 patients also in need. Blood that is received through donation is heavily screened for many pathogens, such as HIV, prior to packaging and shipment to hospitals. 

Blood from donation centers is shipped all over the region to area hospitals and distribution centers. Photo courtesy of Bloodworks NW
Blood from donation centers is shipped all over the region to area hospitals and distribution centers. Photo courtesy of Bloodworks NW

In short, the message of Bloodworks, The Red Cross and the surgeon general is simply, please give blood. 

“It’s hard, you know, when we want people to feel like, they should feel comfortable. This is a very safe thing to do, and it’s always been safe,” Cole said. “We make sure our donors have the best experience they possibly can. That’s something that our team, my coworkers here, we all have been very proud of. What we have established here and we wanna make sure people are comfortable and continue to be comfortable.”

If you would like to schedule an appointment to give blood at Bloodworks Northwest visit their website or give them a call at (360) 567-4800. To schedule a donation with The Red Cross, visit their website or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. 

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a graduate of WSU Pullman’s Edward R. Murrow College where he studied journalism and media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and abroad in Argentina. He has won a regional Emmy and Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his film work. His passions range from sharing the love of Jesus, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife and son in Vancouver, WA. Proverbs 16:3

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