As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts normal operations for everyone, it also has caused concern for blood donations.
When the pandemic first hit the area in March, many American Red Cross blood drives were canceled which resulted in a critical shortage of blood supplies, said Jonathan McNamara, regional communications director for the American Red Cross.
The organization had to think quickly about how to not only provide safe facilities for blood donations but also market those to potential donors.
“We say hundreds of thousands no longer in our system,” McNamara said. “But when we put out word, we saw an unprecedented response that really helped us to stabilize the blood drive.”
McNamara said the Red Cross used an aggressive marketing strategy by posting on social media, advertising through local television and local media outlets. These ads and posts informed potential donors that facilities were using social distancing protocols, volunteers were wearing personal protective equipment and staying up-to-date with current recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In the meantime, he said it helped that Virginia had required elective surgeries to be postponed because it meant there wasn’t as much of a burden on the blood supply as usual. Additionally, many hospital workers stepped up to donate blood as they started seeing the critical need.
Now that elective surgeries have resumed, the Red Cross has to continue to step up its efforts to provide enough units to health care systems in Virginia and across the country.
Surprisingly, McNamara said the Red Cross hasn’t experienced a great loss in volunteers due to concerns of exposure. Instead, there were more volunteers as the Red Cross continues to on-board those willing to help.
Volunteers are now finding larger facilities where beds can be spaced out and performing extra sanitizing and disinfection measures in between donations.
“I do think this will be our reality for the long term,” he said. “But we’re always re-evaluating everything we do if there are new strategies.”
As the new blood drives start again, McNamara said the Red Cross encourages people to reach out with any questions and concerns. The website has provided updated information on safety protocols and individuals can interact via social media as well.
New blood drives are being scheduled everyday. Here are the upcoming blood drives in the area:
Newport News and Hampton
- May 19, 12:15 p.m. to 6 p.m., Hidenwood Presbyterian Church, 414 Hidden Blvd., Newport News
- May 20, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 8 Ruckman Road, Fort Monroe.
- May 26-27,10 a.m. to 3 p.m., United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula, 401 City Center Blvd., Newport News.
- May 28, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Liberty Live Church, 1021 Big Bethel Road, Hampton.
Williamsburg, James City County, York County
- May 19, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Victory Family YMCA, 101 Long Green Blvd., Yorktown.
- May 21, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Victory Family YMCA, 101 Long Green Blvd., Yorktown.
- May 26, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Waters Edge Church, 6830 George Washington Memorial Highway.
- May 27, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Woodlands Conference Center, 119 Visitors Center Drive in Williamsburg.
- June 2, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., James City County Recreation Center, 5301 Longhill Road in Williamsburg.
- June 4, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Stonehouse Presbyerian Church, 9401 Fieldstone Parkway in Toano.
- June 9-10, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Crosswalk Church, 5100 John Tyler Highway in Williamsburg.
The Red Cross is also continuing to collect convalescent plasma donations from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. According to the Red Cross website, people who have recovered have antibodies in their plasma that help attack the virus in those who are currently sick.
Sign up to donate plasma online.
To see a full list of blood drives, visit the American Red Cross online.
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