Nationwide nearly 10,000 Red Cross blood drives had to be canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
High school, middle school and college blood drives were canceled as states and counties have shut down the schools, along with many corporate blood drives.
Paul Lyle, Red Cross volunteer coordinator, and his team were able to host an emergency blood drive for people who still wanted to donate from Pittsburg State University. It was held Thursday following two days of regular donations earlier that week at Countryside Christian Church.
Of the 65 to 70 people that normally would have donated, several were not available — they either have left town to go home, had children to care for or perhaps are at high risk for getting COVID-19.
“But we did get 35 good donations yesterday and on Monday’s and Tuesday’s regular drives we got 130 donations,” Lyle said. “We did 160 over three days which is great.”
Another factor of the low blood drive donations is because nationwide people have been told to stay at home.
“That has filtered into the Red Cross staffing too,” Lyle said. “Their numbers are down because many of their staff members had to stay home with their kids and can’t leave.”
Volunteers are also “critical” for making a blood drive work and many of Lyle’s volunteers are over 60 and were requested to stay home.
“We need volunteers to check people in, get refreshments, escort them after they’ve given blood in case someone gets a little faint,” Lyle said, adding that two USD 250 students volunteered during this week’s blood drive. “The Linahans, Sydney and Jacob, we would not have not pulled off the blood drives as well as we did without them.”
Despite the low number of both staff and volunteers available, it all turned out this week, Lyle said.
“The people who give are patient and understand the need and their giving,” he said.
Helping the amount of blood and platelet reserves, most elective surgeries have been canceled, Lyle said, adding that blood is needed everyday.
“As a matter of fact, every few seconds for traumatic injuries, accidents and so forth,” he said. “Then you’ve got people who have hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, burn patients, they have people who have chronic diseases and cancer. They need blood particles, platelets, plasma or red blood cells on a regular basis, so that has to be replenished on a constant basis. With all of these blood drives being canceled it just exacerbates the need when there is a drive in the area to try to get out and donate.”
Lyle said each person who wishes to donate has their temperature taken at the door. Beds are cleaned after each donor, gloves are worn and so are masks.
“We are taking super precautions,” he said. “It’s safe to give blood, it’s safe to take blood.
“Others simply can’t because of the hot spots (as in New York). It’s just impossible to hold a blood drive, there's no way to socially distance properly and make everybody.”
People can learn more about blood drives during the coronavirus outbreak or schedule an appointment online at redcrossblood.org. Others who wish to volunteer can reach Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org