Blood Donation during COVID-19

Donors around Minnesota, coming out and giving blood to support hospitals through the pandemic. After all, the need for blood never goes away, as there are always accidents and patients in need of care. (Photos submitted by Sue Thesenga)

If something good can be taken from COVID-19, it’s that sentiments of charity and helping your neighbor have been kicked into overdrive. There are many ways to help someone during the pandemic. One, though, is always helpful - donating blood. With a drive taking place at the Norwood Young America Willkommen Pavilion, it’s time to start thinking about donating blood and how it’s going to work during the pandemic.

NYA’s blood drives always see success, but with the looming pandemic there are a few changes for donors this time around.

“There’s still cancer patients, heart attacks, accidents, life is still going on,” said LaVonnne Kroells, one of the organizers for the drive. “Stuff is still happening where people need blood.”

The Red Cross has mandated that all those involved in blood drives must wear a mask, including staff and donors. Luckily, donors won’t need to scramble to find one during this shortage. If needed, masks will be provided to the donors.

Another mandate is that all donors have their temperature taken. While not everyone is sitting at exactly at the 98.6 degree average, there will be a threshold for donors. If they are showing signs of a fever, donors will be asked to reschedule their blood donation for a later date. Donors feeling under the weather are also asked to reschedule instead of coming to donate blood in case of sickness.

Lastly, the canteen has received a new layout to comply with social distancing demands. In the case of NYA’s blood drive, the Pavilion’s canteen will have donors refueling on the ends of tables, as far away as possible. In an effort to keep things moving in the drive, donors will have to move on as soon as they’re feeling up to it to allow someone else to recuperate.

Despite these new precautions, though, there’s some good news. Great news, in fact. Blood drives around the country have been seeing a full capacity, which is keeping the Red Cross and other blood donation groups within their needs even with the many, many cancelled drives.

“Across the country, we saw thousands of blood drives cancelled,” said Sue Thesenga, external communications for the local arm of Red Cross. “Everybody has been coming out to donate, though, which is really helping us meet demand.”

As an essential service, blood drives are going to continue through the stay at home order. The cancellations come from schools, churches, and other buildings being closed, so blood drives and organizations have had to adjust a bit. And while there aren’t as many drives, Thesenga stated that the “immediate need” is still being met. But more blood can’t hurt.

NYA’s blood drive, in fact, is also nearing capacity. As walk-ins cannot be accepted given the circumstances related to the pandemic, everybody has to make an appointment before going to a blood drive. On May 5, the drive will be seeing 81 donors, with a goal of 83, and a full capacity being 93.

“We’ve scheduled four donors every 15 minutes,” said Kroells. “If you come early, you’re going to be asked to wait until you’re called in, so there’s not going to be a huge amount of people in there.”

While many donors are returning donors, there are many new ones coming forward to help as well. For NYA’s blood drive, a few new donors have come forward to help out the community. An important thing to note for new donors is while donated blood is necessary to the health of the community, it’s actually a very simple process.

“It’s easier than you think and takes less than an hour from donation to going home,” said Thesenga. “It’s a great way to give back to the community.”

With all the drives filling up, Thesenga advises that prospective donors should look a couple months ahead to their next scheduled blood drive. What works out with that is donors cannot donate again for at least 56 days, meaning you can donate blood, turn around and find another drive that’s just far enough out that it likely won’t be booked, and continue to help.

The NYA blood drive will be taking place May 5 at the Willkommen Pavilion from noon-6 p.m. For any questions, call LaVonne Kroells at 952-467-3214. To find blood drives in your area, go to redcross.org to make an appointment to donate.

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