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Donating Blood During the COVID-19 Crisis

Angel Eduardo

Donating blood at a local blood donation center

Among the list of critical things in short supply these days, there is one particular shortage that many of us are capable of alleviating. Blood donations are at unprecedented lows as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing dwindling reserves for hospitals everywhere. Donations are needed for patients undergoing a range of medical procedures from transfusions to surgeries. As healthcare workers continue to fight for the sick and vulnerable, one of the many ways we can help is to provide them with the blood donations necessary to do some of their most important work.

Given the current situation, you may be concerned about how COVID-19 might affect your ability to donate. The good news is that donating blood is still safe. Here’s what you need to know before donating blood during the pandemic.

How donating blood works

Typically, donating is as simple as finding your local blood donation center and setting an appointment. In many cases you can even just walk in. Upon arriving, you’re asked to fill out a questionnaire about your health history and any recent travel. Your vitals are then checked by a nurse, and you’re asked what type of blood you’ll be donating. Whole blood donations typically take about ten minutes, whereas the process for platelet donations is a bit more involved and can take a couple of hours. Once you’re finished, you’ll be offered a few snacks in the cantina to restore some energy, and then you’re free to enjoy the rest of your day.

Due to the pandemic, however, the protocol for donating blood is a bit different. Although there is no risk of contracting COVID-19 through donation, the normal social distancing and disinfecting protocols are all the more important to keep donors and staff safe from infection. Donations are now appointment-only, which allows blood centers to more easily manage the number of people present at any one time. Machines and seating areas are also spaced out to minimize close contact, and everyone is required to wear face masks at all times.

A healthcare worker will also take your temperature and collect your health history when you arrive. The paperwork completed will include questions about COVID-related symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or dry cough. Hand sanitizers are also provided throughout the process, and donation centers have enhanced their already-stringent sterilization protocols to make sure everything is safe.

Donating plasma to fight COVID-19

If you’ve recovered from the novel coronavirus, there may be an even bigger incentive for you to donate to local blood centers. Organizations such as The Red Cross are currently accepting plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. Although the research is still in its nascent stages, the hope is that antibodies in the blood of survivors can be used to develop a treatment or vaccine. This form of treatment, called convalescent therapy, was employed during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, as well as the Ebola, SARS, and H1N1 outbreaks in recent years. Recent reports have shown positive anecdotal results from convalescent therapy for COVID-19, and researchers are hard at work collecting more concrete data to know for sure. To do that, however, more donations from survivors are needed, so if you had COVID-19 and have been given a clean bill of health by your medical provider, donating plasma is the way to go.

Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to make a significant impact in the lives of others. It costs you nothing but a fraction of your time, it’s safe, and depending on what form of blood you donate, you can do it every week! Most importantly, donating blood saves lives—and with the possibility of a COVID-19 treatment coming from donations, it’s an even more powerful form of giving.

If you’re interested in donating blood, visit AABB.org, America’s Blood Centers, the American Red Cross, Blood Centers of America, or covidbloodresponse.com to learn more and make an appointment.

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Angel Eduardo

Angel Eduardo has been published in The Ocean State Review, The Caribbean Writer, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, and Label Me Latino Journal. More of his work can be found on his official website www.angeleduardo.com.