Canadian Blood Services appeals for donors as COVID-19 fuels cancellations
'We need people to come out because patients will need blood,' says director of donor relations
Canadian Blood Services says regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is still a good time to donate blood.
Staff say individuals and groups have started cancelling appointments in the wake of new protocols around social distancing. Still, they're asking anyone who feels comfortable and healthy to donate.
"We need people to come out because patients will need blood," Peter MacDonald, director of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services in Atlantic Canada, said Monday.
"Not because of COVID-19, but due to cancer patients, accidents — it all continues."
MacDonald said donor clinics started noticing appointment cancellations, for both individuals and groups, late last week when the announcement was made in Ontario that schools would be closed for two extra weeks after March Break. Visits dropped more when schools were closed in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
He said he understands it may sound odd to invite people to leave their homes and visit a clinic when public health officials are encouraging people to practise social distancing, but the need for blood isn't going to go away.
"People need to realize that our donor centres, and Canadian Blood Services across the country, are places of wellness," MacDonald said. "You have to be healthy to donate blood."
Staff at the centres are doing routine screening for people who have travelled. If you've been outside North America or continental Europe in the past 21 days, you're not eligible to give blood. That's not a COVID-19-related requirement, it's regular protocol.
As for new protocols, MacDonald said they don't want anyone coming to the clinic who should still be self-isolating after international travel. He said they've doubled their cleaning efforts inside the clinics.
"We already have a very rigid and robust cleaning protocol. We've ramped that up to do it more frequently.
"Also, we're adding a wellness check point at the beginning of the event before the person comes into the building just to check that they are feeling well and that they should continue on," he said.
"We would encourage people if they feel they've been exposed and they are not feeling well not to attend. But if you don't think you've been exposed, and you're feeling well and especially now in the early days [of the outbreak], it's an opportunity to come out and make a difference in your community by donating blood."
MacDonald wants to remind people that COVID-19 is not a blood-borne infection. In other words, even if someone carrying the virus donates blood, it won't contaminate the supply.
"I think we've demonstrated the blood system is safe even with, you know, West Nile Virus, Chagas [disease], SARS, Zika [virus], H1N1," he said.
MacDonald said some sites that host mobile donation clinics have cancelled the clinics. A donor clinic planned for this Friday at CFB Shearwater was nixed after the military base cancelled all group activities, visits and tours.
Potential donors can make an appointment by visiting blood.ca or calling 1-888-2donate (1-888-236-6283).
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