When one chapter of the American Red Cross is forced to cancel a blood drive or faces a shortage of blood because of snowstorms or a pocket of illness, they can normally turn to other branches around the country for donations. But with the coronavirus pandemic creating donor cancellations nation-wide, the Red Cross has seen shortages around the country, forcing blood drives to have to take place even as most of the country goes into isolation.
“People are still having accidents,” regional communications manager Dan Hartman said. “Twenty-five percent of our blood generally goes to cancer patients, it’s part of their treatment regimen, so the need for blood is constant.”
On Thursday, March 26 from 1-7 p.m. and Friday, March 27 from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., the Syracuse branch of the Red Cross is hosting a blood drive at the New York State Fairgrounds Expo Center. Given the COVID-19 social distancing mandate, the blood donation process has been slightly altered to provide safety precautions. Staff and donors will have their temperature taken at the door. Once inside, the beds have been spaced further apart than usual and are being sanitized more frequently than the regular amount. The Red Cross is also trying to limit walk-in donations and asking potential donors to set up appointments to limit overlaps and the amount of people inside the tent at one time.
“We’re taking a lot of steps to adhere to the new normal,” Hartman said.
While closures of schools and businesses have seen a dip in donors and many long-time donors have been forced to cancel, Hartman said the Red Cross has seen a spike in first-time donors during this crisis. He hopes they will continue to show up as the Red Cross finds alternative sites like the Fairgrounds and also local churches to hold blood drives and set up donation stations.