Pop-up drives to help with blood shortage

A staffing shortage and the recent snowstorm are draining the region’s blood supply.

A staffing shortage, coupled with the recent snowstorm in Western Washington, is draining the region’s blood supply.

Bloodworks Northwest, a statewide blood bank, is asking people – especially first-time donors – to consider giving a pint in order to stabilize the blood supply, which is currently in critical condition.

There are four upcoming pop-ups happening at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley that Whidbey residents can sign up for, either online at schedule.bloodworksnw.org or by calling 800-398-7888.

No walk-in appointments are being accepted at this time, which has been one of the changes the blood bank has made during the pandemic.

“Because we’re appointment only, it’s really important that we fill every appointment,” said Community Engagement Liaison Hannah McNutt.

As of Tuesday, about half of the 160 appointments at the Langley pop-up drives are still up for grabs.

The pop-ups will be happening 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 10 and Jan. 17 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 11 and Jan. 18.

With the system being appointment-only currently, McNutt said cancellations and no-shows have contributed to issues of low inventory, especially during the pandemic.

“The scary thing to think about is this isn’t just a Bloodworks Northwest problem, this is a national problem,” she said.

During the week of the snowstorm, the blood bank experienced a 40% decrease in appointments. McNutt said it is critical donors make appointments to donate within the next 10 days. O positive blood, for example, was 1,100 units short of operational levels on Tuesday, which might make responding in a crisis difficult to do.

McNutt pointed out that winter is one of the slowest times of the year for donations, with the holidays and people being gone on vacations.

Regardless if someone has received a COVID-19 vaccine or not, they can still give blood. People can donate every 56 days.

People as young as 16 can donate, as long as they have parental permission. McNutt said Bloodworks Northwest has not been able to do much outreach at high schools during the pandemic, where first-time donors have historically volunteered to give blood.

“If you’ve never donated before, now’s the time,” she said. “We really need you.”