With blood drives canceled, donations are needed even more now, experts in suburbs say
The recent cancellation of nearly 4,000 blood drives across the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak has depleted reserves by about 130,000 units and has ramped up the need for donations, industry experts said Thursday in Schaumburg.
"We still have to remember every two seconds someone needs blood," said Margaret Vaughn, government affairs director of the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers. "When they need it, they need it now. It has to be tested and on the shelf."
The nation's blood supplies are down about 30% to 40% from a year ago, Vaughn said. New donations have a shelf life of only 42 days.
She and Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine were among those urging healthy people free of exposure to the coronavirus to donate at their earliest opportunity, during a news conference at the Vitalant Blood Donation Center in Schaumburg.
Morrison said the blood drive he'd planned to attend in his own 54th District last Sunday was among thousands nationwide that have been canceled. But he knew the critical need for blood required him to figure out another way to donate.
"I drove over to my local Vitalant Center in Arlington Heights and gave blood," Morrison said. "This is a lifesaving way that we can all pitch in and help."
Dr. Jason Crane, medical director of Vitalant-Illinois, said the agency's centers are maintaining all the social distancing, cleaning and other protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All they ask of potential donors is to refrain if they are sick or are aware of any exposure to the coronavirus.
Vaughn emphasized that COVID-19 is a respiratory infection and isn't carried by blood.
In addition to its established donation centers, Vitalant has just one drive still scheduled for the near future. Hosted by the Chicago Wolves professional hockey team, it will run from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, at the Skyline Room across Lunt Avenue from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
Vitalant-Illinois Marketing Director Holly Seese said Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens has given permission for that drive to go on, and the facility is large enough for all the same protocols to be practiced as at the established centers.
"We'll be taking every precaution that we can there," Seese said.
Even without prompting, enough people were showing up at the Schaumburg facility Thursday afternoon that the staff was advising them they could feel free to wait or make an appointment for an upcoming day.
"To all those who have heard our need over the past week, thank you," Seese said. "This need doesn't stop just because most of us are homebound."