Virus fears impacting Delaware blood donations

DOVER — With the spread of COVID-19, event cancellations are becoming more prevalent, and that extends to blood drives.

Lead Tech, Madeline Hernandez talks with Michael Cameron as he gives blood at the Dover Blood Bank on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Three blood drives — spanning from one this week, to one in April and another scheduled for May — have been canceled in the Delmarva region, said Tony Prado, a spokesman for the Blood Bank of Delmarva.

“It’s starting to have an effect,” he said.

Delaware’s leaders announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 Wednesday.

Today, at the Blood Bank’s Christiana center, Mr. Prado noted that 120 people were signed up to donate, with 30 vacant appointments. While that’s not overly concerning right now, he said, the Blood Bank wants to get ahead of it.

“When you start to see that happening every day and every week, that can be a problem,” he said. “That’s indicative [that] we’ve had a slow down. Couple that with the three blood drive cancellations, it starts to make you wonder, ‘Are people reacting to all the negative news they’re hearing? Is it going to get worse?’”

Forty percent of blood donations in the region come from blood drives that are hosted by schools, organizations and businesses, Mr. Prado said.

Blood donations — which include blood, plasma and platelets — go to patients in treatment for cancer, burns and trauma. Hospitals tend to keep a seven-day supply on hand, and blood is perishable, he said.

“When you see one [drive] go down, that’s cause for consternation,” he said.

While it is rare for blood to stay “on the shelf” for that long, it should be replenished daily so the supply remains at seven days, Mr. Prado said.

Blood donation is safe, he added, as staff are trained to prevent the spread of infectious agents and regularly clean public surfaces.

People are not eligible to donate if they’re experiencing a cold, sore throat, respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms.

Donors are encouraged to refrain from donating, or attending a blood drive, if they have traveled to areas with COVID-19 outbreaks, as defined by the CDC, officials said.

Mr. Prado noted that, through screening for donation, staff can identify signs of illness — like low-grade fevers — and will send donors home until they’re at least three days free from symptoms.

He called the situation a “catch-22.” While people are heeding the advice to stay home, avoid crowds, etc., “if we’re going to your blood drive and you’re working from home that day, that doesn’t help us out,” he said.

The blood bank is seeking to double the blood reserves now so that it can prevent shortages, officials said.

“Every donation at all blood drive and donor centers are critical,” Christopher D. Hillyer, M.D., president and CEO of Blood Bank of Delmarva, said in a prepared statement. “As healthy, eligible donors, we have a responsibility to our neighbors to keep the blood supply safe and robust. A resilient healthcare system is more important than ever and we’re counting on everyone to help maintain that.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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