‘Willing to take the chance’: Blood donors hope to prevent another health crisis on top of pandemic

photo by: Lauren Fox

Anthony DeFilippo gave blood March 26 at a blood drive at Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Despite fears of contracting the coronavirus, a steady stream of donors flowed through an American Red Cross blood drive Thursday at Lawrence’s Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Social distancing guidelines are impossible to maintain while a staff member takes a donor’s blood, but those involved in the blood drive process felt the services they were providing were equally important to the nation’s health.

“We’re trying to prevent another health crisis on top of the one we are already facing,” said Jane Blocher, executive director of the American Red Cross in Douglas County.

As of Thursday evening, Blocher said, nearly 9,000 Red Cross blood drives had been canceled across the nation because of the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in more than 250,000 fewer blood donations.

photo by: Lauren Fox

The American Red Cross hosted a blood drive on March 26 at Immanuel Lutheran Church and there was no shortage of donors, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Susan Kraus donated blood on Thursday and said that while people should respect health guidelines related to the coronavirus, there is also “a desperate need for blood. And that’s not just going to go away because of COVID.”

LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson said Monday during a virtual press conference that blood drives remain important. He noted that LMH Health had a blood drive about two weeks ago.

Precautionary procedures have been implemented at donations centers across the country, including at Thursday’s drive in Lawrence, Blocher said. At the door, staff members, donors and volunteers must have their temperature taken. Beds and waiting room chairs are separated to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The typical canteen-style food service was replaced with grab-and-go snacks.

photo by: Lauren Fox

The beds were separated at a greater distance than normal in order to maintain social distancing between donors at a blood drive at Immanuel Lutheran Church on March 26.

Because of the extreme precautions at the blood drive, Kraus felt that donating blood was safer than going to the grocery store.

“You know you can take so many precautions, but you can’t stop transmission from people who are not similarly being cautious,” she said. “And in this situation, everyone is being cautious.”

Instead of the pandemic resulting in a loss of blood donors, Blocher said the Red Cross had so many people seeking to give blood that it will be extending the blood drive another day. That drive will be taking place Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 2104 Bob Billings Parkway. Those seeking to donate may show up without an appointment, but Blocher said it is preferable that people call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment in advance.

photo by: Lauren Fox

A sign on the entrance of Immanuel Lutheran Church on March 26 tells blood drive visitors not to give blood if they have traveled to certain countries or been exposed to the coronavirus.

“Whenever something like this happens, residents in Douglas County show up in force to give,” Blocher said. But she also noted that the need for blood will extend throughout this pandemic.

“Giving at a time like this — when we are in the middle of a health emergency — it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint,” Blocher said. “So we will need donors long term, not just right now when it’s really starting to impact our community.”

Hunter Given, part of the collections staff at the blood drive, said he is a little concerned about having to come into close contact with donors in order to take their blood, but that there are greater worries on his mind.

“I’m also more concerned about the people that are requiring the blood in order to survive and live, so I guess in that aspect I’m willing to take the chance,” he said.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

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More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.


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