Donors trickle into blood banks in light of shelter order

Blood donations fall off after shelter in place order, fortunately blood banks received a surge of donations in early days of pandemic

By Paul Myers

FRESNO – Donations at central California blood banks went from a gusher to a trickle since COVID-19 forced California to shelter in place. In addition, blood drives at events and schools have all gone to the wind. Ersilia Lacze, director of marketing and community development at the Central California Blood Center (CCBC) said that things have definitively changed at their centers.

“It is definitely a very different look and feel to our donor traffic…we put some precautionary things in place like taking the temperature of people who come in,” Lacze said.

Fortunately, when novel coronavirus cases began to pop up in Washington and Oregon, the blood center began to aggressively campaign for more donations. Lacze said that they had a surge of donors that gave their blood banks an unusual amount of blood at once.

“There was huge influx of donors from our community early on…we were extremely blessed by such a large turnout that we are actually doing well in blood collections,” Lacze said.

There is a problem though. Blood expires.

“The challenge we face, as this COVID thing continues and keeps us all at home, is that blood is perishable. All the great collection we had only has 42 days until it expires,” Lacze said.

As of now CCBC has actually been forced to schedule donors with AB+ and B+ blood types to come back another day when hospitals have gone through their blood supplies. Blood banks are even scheduling future appoints for O+ donors who can go toward those with A+, B+, AB+ and other O+ patients. Per usual, blood banks are still accepting all O- donors.

But CCBC is also trying to get the plasma of donors who have had COVID-19 and recovered. The FDA has expedited a treatment program for COVID-19 that entails using the antibodies in the plasma of recovered patients. The experimental treatment is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used on an emergency basis. People who recover from the Coronavirus infection have developed antibodies to the virus that remain in the plasma portion of their blood. Transfusing the plasma that contains the antibodies into a person still fighting the virus can provide a boost to the patient’s immune system and potentially help them recover.

Lacze said the idea is to help expedite a treatment that could help others afflicted with the disease.

“What they’ve done, and it all moved very quickly, is that they partnered with a few large blood bank conglomerates…we are one of many blood centers to participate,” Lacze said

Lacze said there are approximately six people currently in the “pipeline” to donate their plasma. Interested donors can fill out a form on Donateblood.org to see if they meet the necessary criteria. The most important factors are the confirmed tests that someone had COVID-19 and then a confirmed test that they have recovered. But also that they have been symptom free for at least 14 days.

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