As the Red Cross and other blood banks warned about coming shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Hope Blood Donor Center swung into action, taking a number of measures that have kept the institution’s blood supplies stable.
"We called other donor centers who were ahead of us in this crisis and learned what worked for them and what didn’t," said Kasie Uyeno, manager of donor recruitment. "So we were able to forecast and plan head without having to stumble and learn the hard way."
One of the first things the center did was reach out to its list of previous donors — by text, phone, email and social media — and the response was nothing short of remarkable.
"Our donors responded the way they would to a 9/11 or a loved one’s need, and we collected a ton of donations," said Uyeno. "It’s been amazing."
However, as the crisis escalates, the need for donors will become even greater.
"Right now we're preparing for a decrease in donors in the next two months, because more people will stay home and more, unfortunately, will fall ill, as we still have not reached the peak number of COVID-19 infections," said Lefan Zhuang, M.D., medical director of the Blood Donor Center. "I anticipate there will be a significant drop in donorship starting this month, and patients will still need the same amount of blood as before."
In fact, the need is so pressing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just relaxed some of its rules for blood donations to reach a wider pool of donors.
Rest assured that COVID-19 cannot be contracted through a blood donation procedure or transfusion.
"The FDA has found no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 or other coronaviruses through a blood transfusion," said Zhuang.
And before any donation can be used, it is tested for viruses that can be transmitted through blood, including HIV, hepatitis B and C, West Nile virus and HTLV (human T cell lymphotropic virus), as well as bacterial infections.
New Safety Procedures at the Blood Donor Center
At a time when venturing out to the supermarket or pharmacy can feel dangerous, how safe is donating blood at City of Hope? Very safe.
Everyone entering the City of Hope Blood Donor Center must be screened for fever, symptoms and exposure to the COVID-19 virus. At registration they again are asked about COVID-19 exposure, and shortly prior to the donation, the donor room nurses do another screening for fever and symptoms.
In the waiting room, there is 6 feet of space between each chair. Every surface — including the pens used by donors and even the brochure folders — is disinfected after each use. Members of the staff are masked, wear safety coats and, except for the screening and blood draw itself, a minimum 6-foot distance between people is always maintained.
The Blood Donor Center is open for donations Monday through Saturday, and the second Sunday of every month — but for safety’s sake they’re asking donors not to show up without an appointment, which you can make at idonateblood4hope.org or by calling 626-218-7171.