Outbreak drains blood banks

Among the many impacts of the coronavirus outbreak is a shortage of blood.

Bloodworks Northwest, a statewide blood bank, is asking for healthy and willing individuals to give a pint of the red stuff. The blood supply has been severely affected because many donation sites have been closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

“A lot of our blood drives are tied to business and schools, and employers have been asking employees to work from home,” Bloodworks Communications Specialist Bill Harper said.

One of these donation sites included Emerald City Comic Con, where 100 donations had been scheduled to happen before the event’s cancellation.

According to a press release, Bloodworks Northwest needs 1,000 units, or donations, every day to be able to sustain the community’s blood supply.

As of Friday, March 6, the blood bank lost 60 percent of that supply, and 20 groups cancelled blood drives. Harper said the blood bank is seeing 140 fewer donors every day than it expects to see at its donation centers and mobile blood drives.

“Donating blood and receiving blood does not increase your risk of contracting coronavirus,” he said.

Donation sites are kept clean and sanitized, and those who have the virus or think they may have been in contact with someone who had it are not encouraged to donate blood.

Blood donations are critical to supporting patients receiving treatment for cancer, undergoing surgery or recovering from traumatic injuries. They may also help support patients with coronavirus.

“It is dire,” Harper said. “But the empowering thing about it is that people can do something about it.”

“There’s a lot of hype out there,” he added, “a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety. The problem’s already here and could get a lot worse, but our community can make sure that it doesn’t get worse and people can get the resources they need and continue in their recovery.”

The blood bank did receive more than 500 units over the weekend, donated from around the nation, but that only goes so far in supporting the local blood supply.

Bloodworks Northwest is currently approaching big businesses, such as Costco, about hosting blood drives where it is convenient for people to donate.

Blood drives are scheduled for Whidbey Island during the upcoming weeks. From 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. this Thursday, the public can go to Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland to give blood.

A second drive at the United Methodist Church in Coupeville is happening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 19.

And on April 24, a Langley blood drive will be happening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the US Bank parking lot.