As the spread of the coronavirus forces the public to participate in social distancing, our blood supply is becoming vulnerable, and those who depend on donated blood are increasingly in need of public donations.
In a statement recently published on its website, Miller-Keystone Blood Center (MKBC) announced that more than 12,000 blood drives nationwide have been canceled. Locally, more than 200 drives have been canceled, resulting in the loss of over 5,000 lifesaving blood donations. Blood drives make up more than 60 percent of blood supplied to hospitals.
Miller-Keystone announced that other coronaviruses similar to COVID-19 are not transmitted through transfusion.
“This was the experience with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS CoV) and Mideast Respiratory Syndrome (MERS CoV),” Miller-Keystone said in its statement.
Due to COVID-19 being a new disease, however, Miller-Keystone is taking a variety of precautionary steps to help prevent the spread of the virus.
These measures include:
- Only conducting donations via appointment. Walk-in donors are not permitted at this time.
- Asking donors who do not feel well to reschedule their appointments.
- Asking donors who have recently traveled to areas of major outbreaks such as China, Korea, Italy and Iran to postpone donations for at least 28 days from the time when they departed the country.
- Asking donors who have been exposed to someone having a diagnosis of COVID-19 to postpone donation for at least 28 days.
- Asking donors who have recovered from COVID-19 to postpone donation for at least 28 days from the time when their symptoms ended.
Miller-Keystone also announced in its statement that it is safe to go to a blood center or blood drive.
“We have implemented the necessary social distancing recommendations, and we encourage all donors to complete their medical screening online prior to arriving for their appointment,” the statement said. “The risk of exposure at a donor center is exceedingly low.”
Miller-Keystone is decontaminating all blood center equipment between uses, and everything that touches blood is sterile and disposable. Signature pads, tables and tablets are also being decontaminated between use, and blood center staff are wearing protective equipment such as gloves and face shields in accordance with regulatory requirements.
“Although we wish the opposite were true, our collection sites are rarely crowded and not considered ‘mass gatherings,’” the statement said.
Fortunately, Miller-Keystone has reported that there is currently no blood shortage.
“Due to the swift and generous response of our community, our community’s blood supply is stable at this time,” the organization said.
However, MKBC is still encouraging donors to schedule a donation over the next three weeks, because there are patients who need blood routinely. These are patients recovering from cancer, trauma victims, premature infants, surgical patients and others.
There is no substitute for blood, and it is perishable. Volunteer blood donors are essential at this time.
This sentiment was echoed by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams in a March 19 statement.
“Donated blood is an essential part of caring for patients, and one donation can save up to three lives,” Adams said. “I want America to know that blood donation is safe, and blood centers are taking extra precaution at this time based on new CDC recommendations.”
Donors who meet current MKBC criteria should call 1-800-223-6667 to schedule an appointment. To learn more about donating blood, visit the Miller-Keystone Blood Center website.