As we go through this crisis, it’s overwhelming to realize that illnesses, accidents, and surgeries unrelated to COVID-19 are still taking place and require attention from medical professionals every single day. Throughout this time, people are suffering heart attacks and strokes, and others are involved in car and bike accidents. There are cancer patients in need of transfusions and surgeries, those being prepared for organ transplants, burn victims, newborn babies in need of blood, and many others in life-threatening situations — all of whom require blood donations. These patients may be your colleagues, your neighbors, your friends, your family member — they may even be you.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, LifeStream Blood Bank – the valley’s exclusive provider of blood products and services – is experiencing a severe decline in blood donations. In the past month, dozens of LifeStream blood drives at schools, churches, businesses and government offices have been cancelled, resulting in a loss of several thousand pints of blood. This decline has significantly impacted the local and national blood supply.
LifeStream donor centers and mobile drives are not large social gatherings or facilities that local and state officials are recommending be closed; they are tightly controlled environments designed to keep donors safe.
Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement. During a recent White House press briefing, the US Surgeon General said that social distancing mandates do not apply to medical and health related activity, and he urges all those who can to donate blood. Giving blood is a medical/health related activity and is not subject to the social distancing directives regarding mass gatherings.
LifeStream follows FDA-regulated procedures, and staff adhere to rigorous safety protocols. LifeStream checks temperatures and screen donors before they walk in; and they require donors and other visitors to wear face coverings in their facilities. These precautions are in addition to continuing the 6-foot social distancing guidelines, sanitation and cleaning protocols, and the use of personal protective equipment. In addition, they have strengthened their cleaning procedures and minimized opportunities to touch shared surfaces.
To further ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to, LifeStream requires appointments be made to give blood at donor centers to limit the number of visitors at any one time.
The immediate future holds many uncertainties. The continuing need for blood isn’t one of them. LifeStream is unable to collect considerable amounts of blood over the coming months due to cancellation of so many mobile drives, but treatments requiring blood transfusions won’t stop. So those of us who can are being asked to set appointments to give blood, to ensure LifeStream can continue to supply hospitals with this life-saving gift.
The two LifeStream donor centers in the Coachella Valley – in Rancho Mirage and La Quinta – are open regular hours. Healthy individuals are urged to call 800-879-4484 or visit LStream.org to set an appointment.
(Photo: Dr. and Congressman Raul Ruiz donates at LifeStream Blood Bank’s La Quinta Donor Center in April, during COVID-19 crisis.)