One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for blood donors is greater than ever
March 11, 2021 marks a grim milestone in health and human history, with the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic.
In the past 12 months, COVID-19 has altered the landscape of daily lives, from the ways we work and shop to interactions with friends, families and neighbors.
Throughout these challenges, one constant remains: the ongoing need for blood to save lives.
As one of the largest blood programs in Texas, Carter BloodCare provides lifesaving transfusion resources to more than 180 medical facilities in more than 50 counties in north, central and east Texas.
Modern medicine relies on the availability of blood every day. Blood transfusions occur in trauma centers, heart and vascular hospitals and cancer treatment centers, to name only a few.
One in seven patients admitted to a hospital could require a blood transfusion. To keep up with the demand, Carter BloodCare needs at least 1,000 donors every day.
However, as the virus SARS-CoV-2 raged in 2020, blood drives were suddenly shuttered. Schools and universities closed their campuses, propelling students into online-learning environments, and businesses implemented telecommuting for their workforces. Houses of worship also moved services online.
This seismic societal shift had major repercussions for Carter BloodCare and the available blood supply for hospitals and their patients. With students and employees studying and working from home, thousands of blood drives were canceled, resulting in a loss of tens of thousands of units of blood. Across the United States, blood centers experienced a dramatic drop in donations.
Fluctuating and inconsistent blood inventories became the norm in a year when “normal” was being redefined every day.
On March 28, 2020, Carter BloodCare began collecting convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, under emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The plasma contains antibodies to the virus that could help treat hospitalized patients who do not respond to other medical interventions.
In June 2020, Carter BloodCare also began providing COVID-19 antibody testing on all successful donations from blood donors. While not a diagnosis of immunity to COVID-19, a positive result from the FDA-approved test is an indicator that an individual has most likely been exposed to the respiratory virus.
Over the summer, as Lone Star hospitals gradually resumed non-emergent and elective procedures, the need for blood donors increased substantially.
As the impacts of COVID-19 continued to resonate and evolve, however, so too did Carter BloodCare’s actions.
Carter BloodCare has remained vigilant in ensuring safe blood donation experiences and driving the mission to save lives by making transfusion possible.
From the early stages, Carter BloodCare and the blood banking industry actively worked with AABB, the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local health leaders and partners in establishing best practices.
Those precautions – which are still in effect today – include the usual health screenings for all donors, increased use of online scheduling and pre-donation questionnaires to reduce wait times, social distancing, sanitization protocols, and the wearing of masks by donors and Carter BloodCare employees.
Throughout this unprecedented time, Carter BloodCare has focused on providing a safe donation experience while ensuring a reliable blood supply for patients who require transfusions, today and in the future.
With an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations comes an increase in the hope that this episode in our shared global history is becoming just that: history.
However, the need for blood remains, and it is more urgent than ever.
Your donations are essential in helping turn the tide against the pandemic’s devastating effects on our blood supply. Without volunteer donors, there is no way to obtain blood for patients requiring transfusion because it cannot be manufactured or created in a lab.
There are several ways to help.
Visit carterbloodcare.org and click the “Donate Blood” tab to find a donation center or community blood drive near you.
Donors can also call or text 800-366-2834 to schedule an appointment.
In addition, email BookABloodDrive@carterbloodcare.org to host a blood drive.
In the words of Dr. Merlyn Sayers, president and CEO of Carter BloodCare, “I’m not urging you to donate because your lives depend on it. I’m urging you to donate because the lives of others depend on you.”