Q: What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your procedures?
A: Because blood donation is an essential component of the community’s healthcare network, the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City (CBC) has made significant changes to our procedures to ensure donor and staff safety. As a health care-related organization, we have always maintained clean facilities, but now we clean even more frequently than before, between donors and all surfaces. We maintain proper distancing and all our staff wear masks and perform health self-assessments prior to presenting at work. Donors must make an appointment to assist us in maintaining distance. They must wear a mask, have their temperature taken and answer questions about COVID exposure. Donors who have a positive diagnostic test, have experienced coronavirus symptoms in the last 14 days or are on self-quarantine may not donate.
Q: How have donation levels been impacted by the pandemic?
A: After an initial influx of donors early in the pandemic, we have seen a decrease in donations that to this day have not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. We have seen an additional decrease in the last couple of weeks that may be attributed to the increase in coronavirus cases in our bi-state area. Plus, summer has traditionally been a difficult time to collect blood and now COVID-19 is making it even more challenging.
Q: What positive impact(s) have you seen from the pandemic?
A: One positive outcome has been the interest from recovered COVID-19 patients in donating convalescent plasma (CCP) to help other people suffering from the virus. Convalescent plasma from recovered patients contains COVID-19 antibodies that are thought to help coronavirus patients fight the virus until they can make antibodies of their own. To date, CBC has collected 571 units of CCP from local recovered COVID-19 patients. We need additional CCP, so if someone is a recovered patient and would like to donate CCP, please go to our website at savealifenow.org/cpdonor and sign up. Prospective donors must have a documented positive COVID test result and be symptom free for 14 days.
Q: What are you most proud of as an outcome of the pandemic?
A: I am proud of the resilience and perseverance of our staff who come in every day to continue the life-saving work that we do in the midst of their own personal struggles that we are all dealing with; e.g. caring for sick family members, figuring out school for their children, mental health issues, and many other things.
Q: What do you most value now as a result of the pandemic?
A: While I have always valued our donors, this pandemic has made it crystal clear how critical donors are to our mission of providing life-saving blood to our area hospitals. We are asking more of donors than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, 70% of our blood was collected at businesses, churches and schools, where we bring in our equipment and set up a mobile drive at their locations, making it very convenient for people to donate. With so many businesses closed and/or with all their employees working from home, we can no longer set up business drives because there is no one there to donate. We are asking all those donors to find one of our seven donation centers close to them, make an appointment and donate there.
Q: What has been the hardest challenge you have faced or obstacle you have overcome?
A: The hardest challenge has been our inability to get back into businesses, churches and schools to set up mobile drives. The number of mobile drives has dropped by two-thirds this year as these groups can no longer host drives. Some churches have come back, but businesses have not and now schools are in question. The upcoming school year presents new and unprecedented challenges. Blood donations are typically lower during the summer and the return to school usually helps make up the difference and stabilize the blood supply. In the past, school and college drives have collected 20,000 blood donations during each school year. We count on these drives to boost our blood supply every fall, but that’s not happening this year. So, we will encourage donors to take the extra step of making an appointment and traveling to one of our donation centers. The loss of young donors is a particular challenge because our future blood supply is dependent on these first-time donors becoming lifetime donors.
Q: What do you anticipate as you look at the next several months?
A: I expect that we will continue to move from a 70% mobile drive/30% donor center collection model to more of a 50% mobile drive/50% donor center model. I do not anticipate being able to fully restore our mobile drive model, especially at businesses. We are hearing that many businesses will continue with work from home policies through the end of the year and perhaps well into 2021.
Q: What didn’t we ask you that you would like to share?
A: While we all have experienced dramatic changes this year, the need for blood hasn’t changed. I will end with a call to action to your readers and ask that they share the need with friends and family. Many want to know what they can do to make a difference in the world. The act of giving blood is something people can do to make a difference. Donating blood saves lives.