March 20, 2020 — The Siuslaw School District is teaming up with Bloodworks Northwest to hold a “social distance friendly” blood drive at the middle school on Tuesday, March 31, and Monday, April 6. Each drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The donations are vital in helping to prepare for the oncoming spike of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19.
“Bloodworks Northwest has expressed the need for blood,” said Siuslaw Elementary School Principal Mike Harklerode, who is helping to coordinate the effort. “They’re low and they’re very worried about the emergency that we all see coming. And I frankly have more people with time on their hands than they had a couple weeks ago. So, we decided to give it a shot and get some school staff together to sign up for blood drives.”
Bloodworks Northwest Regional Director Annette Casper explained that while the organization is not facing a critical shortage at the moment, one could be coming on the horizon as more cities and states impose stay-at-home measures.
“What is happening is, we have an ongoing need,” she said. “There’s a certain amount of blood that’s always needed, from people who require transfusions for chemotherapy to people in car accidents. There’s an ongoing need in hospitals, and people are going to have to meet that need.”
But when people go into quarantine situations, “they aren’t coming out to donate, though the need is still there. You have to have a supply,” Casper said.
On top of that, when cases of COVID-19 do become more widespread in the state, sufferers will need blood.
“People who get COVID-19 and end up getting hospitalized, many times they end up needing blood products — platelets and blood cells,” Casper said. “If that number increases, there’s going to be an increased need of blood for those patients.”
So, it’s vital that the blood supply be replenished now to ensure hospitals can remain at-the-ready when the disease becomes more prevalent.
The blood drive at Siuslaw Middle School will be different than others, as the bloodmobile will not be used.
“I’m afraid the bloodmobile won’t work,” Harklerode said. “The proximity inside is contrary to all the social distancing requirements and recommendations. So, they asked for a larger space and we’ve offered up the middle school gymnasium, which has two entrances in and out, plus the covered area.”
And there will be strict social distancing policies when blood is collected.
“We’re doing everything we can to make it a safe environment,” Casper said. “Maintaining social distancing, disinfecting things. We are making sure the environment is as clean as possible and completely disinfected so those who come out and are healthy stay that way.”
She also stated that there are no known cases of COVID-19 being passed through blood.
“We want people who are donating to be healthy, but there is no scientific evidence that you can get it from a transfusion of blood,” Casper said. “It’s not a known bloodborne pathogen, so it’s highly unlikely.”
According to Casper, Bloodworks Northwest, which keeps its blood supplies in the Pacific Northwest, is always looking for universal O-negative donors, but anyone is encouraged to donate.
“What we would love to see is new donors who maybe haven’t tried it before, but are feeling good and healthy, to give it a try and potentially become a regular donor,” she said. “Ultimately, situations like this highlight the fact that we don’t have enough regular donors in our system to support ongoing needs. This really highlighted that, and it’s a problem that every blood center has.”
She pointed out the blood donation has been on the decline over the past 10 years, and when major situations like the COVID-19 pandemic occur, it emphasizes that new donors are always needed.
“Something like this may be what it takes for somebody to give it a try and say, ‘You know what, that was easy. I can keep doing this and the impact that I’ll have is enormous.’ One donation can save up to three lives. That’s what we need, is just the ongoing support,” Casper said.
She also thanked community partners like the Siuslaw School District for making blood drives possible in uncertain times.
“One thing that has been so profound for us is the outpouring of support from our community,” she said. “To have the school district step up and do this at this time has just been phenomenal. I just want to personally put my thanks out there for them doing this. They are literally saving lives by doing this, and it means so much for the community.”