Texoma Regional Blood Center is having difficulty getting donations due to a shortage of suitable locations for its blood mobile.
Donor Recruiter Melanie Robertson said the issue comes from a number of businesses that normally set up for blood drives are either closed or restricted to the number of people coming and going. She said the biggest uncertainty right now comes from the schools.
Robertson said since the pandemic started the center has cancelled 15 blood drives resulting in a loss of 400 units of blood not being collected. She said the center has rescheduled some drives but with schools closed down the center is having a hard time getting locations.
Another side effect that accompanies the school closings is the impact on the seniors. The center helps provide scholarships for seniors who donate blood. She said the center is working with high school coordinators to find a suitable alternative location to allow the schools to still offer that opportunity for the students.
The center is looking for alternative places to set up. One area is in neighborhoods. While Robertson said it would be possible, there is a caveat, the staff need access to a public restroom. That means finding neighborhoods that have a community center or similar such public facility that can provide a restroom for them to use.
"All the businesses we normally do blood drives at are going to be close," Robertson said.
All of the schools are probably going to be closed until the end of the year. Most of the blood drives we have through April and May are at the high schools. We have to keep doing blood drives. Our blood drives supply 80 percent of our blood donations. It is imperative we keep that going. It is also important to keep the community informed that donations are considered essential travel.
"We're definitely looking at new ways to reach the public and new innovative ways to hold these drives," Robertson said. "If it does last as long as some people suspect it could, the last thing we need on top of a major pandemic is a blood shortage. That will only compound the issues facing the medical field."
Robertson said turnout has been good at the center during the last few weeks. She said typically people come out to donate during a crisis.
One thing she wanted to stress was that even if someone is anemic and gets turned away one day to come back after getting their iron content under control and try again
The blood center is screening all donors to make sure nobody gets contaminated. She said the normal screening process would have caught someone with an illness from donating. Taking it a step further they center is now checking temperatures to ensure the potential donor does not have a fever as it is a strong indicator of the virus.
The first question on the screening questionnaire asks if the donor is feeling sick, a yes reply automatically disqualifies someone from giving. Other reasons that might keep someone from being able to donate would be if they had recently taken medications including antibiotics have had any shorts or vaccination's or steroid shots. Any respiratory illness would also be a no-go.
Once the donor has completed the screening questions they are OK’d to donate. Then the area is cleaned and sanitized. Once they blood is drawn that area is also cleaned and sanitized.
"We are taking all the precautions," Robertson said. "Even before it was mandatory to do so we were doing these. We wear masks, we wipe everything down."
As an extra precaution the blood center does ask donors to follow up if they come down with symptoms after donating. In that event the blood would be removed from the stockpile.
Right now she said what is keeping people from donating is fear. She said people don't want to catch the virus and that keeps them from going out in public.
"You don't even know who is sick" Robertson said." We are taking every precaution we can not only to make sure our donors are safe but our staff is safe."
She said the center is practicing social distancing. The chairs are 6 feet apart and the center is limiting the number of people in the office and the blood mobile. If they have more people waiting to get in they are asked to stay in their vehicle until they are notified by phone or text they are clear to enter.
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