Officials ask for help as pandemic impacts blood drives, donations

By Traci Chapman
Staff Writer

As confirmed COVID-19 cases and the number of resulting deaths continue to rise, the pandemic is also taking a toll on other medical efforts, efforts that if not maintained could put more people at risk, officials say.

Oklahoma Blood Institute personnel help individuals give blood during a past Mustang drive. COVID-19 has adversely impacted blood supplies across the state, something that must be remedied to protect patients’ health, officials say. (File photo)

Key among those was blood donation activities, which have taken a serious hit in recent weeks. As concern over social distancing and the spread of the coronavirus spreads, many communities and organizations have canceled blood drives, Oklahoma Blood Institute officials said. That drop leaves stores depleted, which – in turn – means patients dealing with serious illnesses or who have been in an accident and who need fresh blood supplies to survive are at risk, OBI president and CEO John Armitage, M.D., said.

“Blood is a perishable product, and we need constant donations not only to meet our community needs, but in case of local and national emergencies,” Armitage said. “We urge healthy adults to continue their regular blood donations so the lifesaving supply can be maintained for our local patients who depend on blood products during treatment for cancer, traumatic injuries and other life-threatening conditions.”

Established in 1977, OBI provides more than 90 percent of the state’s blood supply – and about 1,200 donors are needed each day to meet that need. Each donation can save up to three lives, OBI officials said.

That’s why OBI has asked partners who can retain their scheduled blood drive to do so – including some Canadian County efforts currently scheduled for April:

April 3, noon – 6 p.m.

Blood Can’t Wait micro blood drive

Mustang Lowe’s

1000 East state Highway 152

Mustang (outside)

 

April 4, 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Union City Fire Department mobile blood drive

765 North Highway 81

Union City

 

April 10, noon – 6 p.m.

Blood Can’t Wait micro blood drive

Yukon Chamber of Commerce

10 West Main

Yukon (outside)

 

April 13, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Blood Can’t Wait micro blood drive

El Reno Fire Department

2707 Faith Avenue

El Reno

 

April 17, noon – 6 p.m.

Blood Can’t Wait micro blood drive

Mustang Lowe’s

1000 East state Highway 152

Mustang (outside)

 

April 21, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Mustang community mobile blood drive

1201 North Mustang Road (Town Center)

 

“Many blood drives have been canceled, so we are looking to lessen the impact by scheduling smaller, neighborhood-sized drives in areas statewide,” said Heather Browne, OBI marketing and media manager. “We are grateful to all of our partners and understand their cancellations and are thankful to those who are going ahead with scheduled drives.”

Mobile blood drives and donor centers alike were adjusted to allow for social distancing, Browne said. Donors may also wait in their vehicle after checking in and while waiting to give blood, if they prefer. Extra safety and cleaning processes have also been implemented; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on its website no cases of COVID-19 have been traced to giving blood.

Anyone who is not feeling well should abstain from donating blood, and all OBI personnel take the temperature of everyone entering the donation area, Browne said.

“In addition, we screen all donor services staff at the beginning of their shift, taking temperatures to ensure no one has a fever or feels ill,” she said.

Browne recommended anyone planning to give blood at one of the above-listed drives make an appointment ahead of time to help promote social distancing. That can be done by calling OBI at 1-877-340-8777 or going online to https://yourbloodinstitute.org/donor/auth/signin.

Several drives are still being canceled on short notice, so officials suggested checking schedules frequently. That can be done by going to the OBI website and performing a countywide search at https://www.yourbloodinstitute.org/donor/schedules/county.

“Healthy adults age 16 and older can give whole blood every 56 days and platelets every seven days, up to 24 times a year,” Browne said. “To donate blood, 16-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds and provide signed parental permission, 17-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds, and 18 and older must weigh at least 110 pounds.”

More information about OBI, its COVID-19 safety procedures and more can be found on its website, located at www.obi.org/covid19.

“In a time of crisis, blood donation remains an essential health care activity – you can still go out and give blood,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said. “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

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