With stay-at-home orders in place for many states, businesses in every industry are feeling the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This is especially true for blood collection organizations, like the American Red Cross and other independent agencies.
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An unprecedented number of blood drives were canceled during the first few weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, as colleges and companies shut down. All of the cancelations and closings resulted in a severe need for blood donations.
Blood donation is essential for hospitals to be able to take care of those who need it. The demand for blood products (blood, platelets and plasma) is constant, even when the world isn’t in the midst of a global pandemic.
The shortage and need for blood has left many wondering if it’s still safe to donate, despite COVID-19.
Safety measures to protect donors + workers
“It’s crucial for people to continue to donate blood right now so that hospitals have an adequate supply to help those who need it,” says infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, MD. “Blood collection agencies are absolutely adhering to good social distancing practices and have the donor’s safety at the forefront.”
So what’s being done at blood drives to protect the donors and workers?
- Donors and staff are required to wear face masks at all blood drives or donation centers. Donors are encouraged to bring their own face covering, but the Red Cross will provide one if need be. (If a donor does not want to wear a face mask, they’ll be asked to postpone their donation for another time.)
- Temperature checks are required for staff and donors.
- Hands sanitizer is provided throughout the donation process.
- Beds, furniture and other equipment are all spaced out to follow social distancing practices.
- There is increased disinfecting of all surfaces touched by staff and donors.
Healthy people can still donate – even during stay-at-home orders
Currently there is no data or evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion.
Blood donation agencies are committed to the highest standard of safety and infection control to keep healthy donors just that – healthy.
Even in areas that have been issued stay-at-home or shelter in place orders, you can still leave your home to go donate blood.
How often can you donate?
- Whole blood donation – every 8 weeks (56 days).
- Power red donation – every 16 weeks (112 days).
- Platelet donation – every 7 days, up to 12 times per year.
Is it true that you get tested for COVID-19 when you donate?
Unfortunately, a myth about getting tested for COVID-19 at donation sites has been circling around.
Your temperature will be checked and you’ll be screened verbally for symptoms, but you will not be tested for COVID-19 when you donate blood.
You’ll be asked about symptoms and signs of infection. And you’ll be asked if you’ve been around anyone else who may have a viral infection — and if you have, you’ll be asked not to donate at that time.
“Unfortunately we just don’t have enough tests out there right now,” says Dr. Esper. “So no, you will not get a nose or throat swab when you go to donate blood.”
A way to give back + contribute
With many people cooped up inside and wondering what to do or how to help, donating blood is a great contribution, says Dr. Esper.
People still have cancer and need blood. Car accidents are still happening. People still need blood for reasons that don’t have anything to do with the coronavirus.
So if you’re wondering how you can help during the pandemic — donate blood if you’re healthy and eligible.