Courtesy photo/Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio/American Red Cross

SOUTH PORTLAND — The American Red Cross of Maine has seen a decrease of blood donations and drives, as worries about spreading or catching the Covid-19 virus have made some usual donors wary.

As of April 6, 14,000 blood drives have been canceled across the country, resulting in about 400,000 fewer blood donations than were needed for hospitals, Mary Brant, external communications manager, said.

Brant compared a blood drive to a hospital or grocery store, essential operations that ensure the health of the community.

“Blood drives are not considered mass gatherings,” she said. “They’re controlled events with appropriate safety measures in place to protect recipients and our own staff.”

The Red Cross is also implementing additional precautions to prevent the spread of germs, she said. Besides the standard procedures of changing gloves often, disinfecting beds, preparing blood donors’ arms with sanitized scrubs, the organization has added temperature checks for both donors and staff, hand sanitizer stations, and social distancing measures in waiting rooms and refreshment areas.

Staff now wear basic face masks at the CDC’s recommendation, she said.

On March 19, Surgeon General Jerome Adams made a statement about the safety of blood donations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I want America to know that blood donation is safe, and blood donation centers are taking extra precautions at this time, based on new CDC recommendations … ,” he said. “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

In South Portland, four blood drives are scheduled. East Point Christian Church, 345 Clarks Pond Parkway, will host blood drives on April 9, 16 and 30. On April 28, a drive will be held at 200 Sable Oaks Drive.

Brant said that donors should make an appointment online, in order for staff to make appropriate safety measures.

“In the past, when we had a blood drive, we would encourage people — if you have an hour, come on down — and now we’re emphasizing appointments,” she said. “If you want to donate, please go online and make an appointment. What that does is help with social distancing. That is something that we really emphasize. It just helps us to manage the flow of donors.

“I would encourage people to go to www.redcrossblood.org and they can type in a specific blood drive and make sure that is still running and if it isn’t, they can find another one,” she continued. “We really don’t know how long this pandemic is going on.”

Sponsors throughout the U.S. host blood drives, and since the beginning of the Covid-19 situation, finding willing sponsors has been a challenge, said Brant.

“The Red Cross truly is a volunteer-based organization, beginning with our donors, but all the blood drive signs you see around towns, on college campuses and by churches, those are sponsored by volunteers so many locations have had to cancel blood drives,” she said. “We’ve had to really struggle to replace those blood drives. The need is constant and doesn’t stop for the coronavirus. We need to keep blood supplies.”

Churches and civic organizations that are willing to host blood drives are encouraged to reach out to the Red Cross to see if they can meet requirements, said Brant.

She added that after donors have finished giving blood at a drive or a donation center, they can schedule another appointment in person. Blood donors must wait at least eight weeks between appointments.

For more information, call 1-800-Red-Cross, said Brant, or visit www.redcrossblood.org.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: