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Giving blood safe, despite COVID-19
Blood donations taking hit during pandemic
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Corry Herrman has dealt with American Red Cross blood drives since 1991, However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented something unprecedented.

“There’s been a lot of changes, but nothing like this,” the Great Bend blood drive coordinator said. “It’s scary.”

Nonetheless, Herrman said, donating blood is completely safe and just as critical as it always has been. In light of this, the next local event is set for 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday at the American Legion Post 180, 1011 Kansas Ave., Great Bend.

“These are quite interesting times we are living in,” said Jan Hale, Wichita-based Red Cross regional external communications manager for Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The virus has made an impact on the agency’s blood collection efforts.

Even so, “it is safe as ever,” Hale said. “Even before the pandemic it was a safe process, but now we’ve added measures to protect donors and employees.”

There is no data to indicate the virus is spread through donating blood, she said. 

And, as always, donors can report changes in their health after giving blood to avoid possible tainted donations.


Safety precautions

According to the Centers for Disease and Control, in health-care settings all across the United States, donated blood is a lifesaving, essential part of caring for patients. The CDC encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19.

Examples of steps taken to improve safety at blood drives include spacing donor chairs six feet apart. Access to post-donation snacks is limited and monitored closely as well. 

Also, when prospective donors enter a drive, their temperatures are checked. If the temp is over 99.5 degrees, they won’t be allowed to give.  

In addition, the liberal use of hand sanitizer is urged and the staff has increased the disinfection of all surfaces. 

And, “we can’t stress enough how important appointments are,” Hale said. This allows them to know who’s coming and helps in practicing social distancing.


The need goes on

“It’s an ongoing critical need,” Hale said. “Despite the coronavirus, every two seconds, someone needs blood.”

Sadly, since the onset of COVID-19, 130 drives across Kansas have been canceled, Hale said. That translates into over 3,000 missed donations.

About 20 percent of the Red Cross’ blood donations come from high school and college students. Now, with schools closed, most of those drives have been suspended.

“We are adding new locations as quickly as we can,” Hale said. She urges those wanting to give blood to check redcross.org to find out times and locations.

So, “if you're well, healthy and feeling OK, we’d love for you to consider a blood donation,” Hale said.

Find  a drive or make an appointment by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.