Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the American Red Cross has had to cancel 7,000 blood drives nationally, resulting in 200,000 fewer blood donations. The nonprofit organization relies on businesses and schools to host its blood drives, the majority of which have temporarily closed to decrease the spread of the virus.
The Red Cross Northwest Region’s Snohomish County Chapter hosted its first rescheduled blood drive on Tuesday, March 24 in its Downtown Everett chapter building. Chapter Executive Director Kelli Thode says that after making appeals for the need for blood donations, through social media, the Snohomish community banded together to combat the blood shortage.
“The community has really stepped up. It’s really important to highlight that because there has been such a positive response to donating.”
Donating blood is considered an essential activity under Gov. Jay Inslee’s state-wide stay at home order. It’s considered safe for healthy individuals to give blood during the current public health crisis without risk of exposure through the act itself.
“There needs to be a steady supply of blood to support the medical system, hospitals, and patients. We’re trying to continue that momentum of having people consistently still donate,” explained Thode.
Red Cross Snohomish County staff and volunteers took extra precautions before and during Tuesday’s blood drive to ensure donors were in a safe and hygienic environment, setting up beds and chairs at least 6-feet apart.
“We put in extra safety protocols with our blood drives. Our volunteers clean everything. There’s a lot of extra cleaning going on. They wipe down everything in between everything,” Thode explained. “Our volunteers also screened everyone before they even came into the building.”
The screening process is similar to what they’re doing in hospitals. Snohomish County volunteers checked the temperatures of the potential donors and asked them five mandatory intake questions about their recent travel history and potential exposure to COVID-19.
Staff and volunteers at the blood drive also had to partake in the mandatory screenings. Thode says that a lot of the staff and volunteers have had to temporarily step out of their positions due to self-assessed potential interactions with exposed or infected people.
“Now we’re just trying to make sure we are staffed to collect and take blood. Nationally, Red Cross is having to do a big push to hire to cover the people out right now,” explained Thode.
Due to the county’s rapid response to donate their blood, Snohomish County Red Cross blood drive appointment opportunities are filling up quickly. Thode asks that if you are unable to get an appointment now, to make one in the following weeks.
“We’ve been maxing out at the blood drives which is great, but blood has a shelf life so there’s just a constant need for donations.”
To practice social distancing and stagger donors appropriately to ensure a steady supply, Snohomish County Red Cross blood drives will be by appointment only and will not be accepting walk-ins.
For more information, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-733-2767.