On March 1, things looked dire for the Northwest's blood supply. "Boom." That's how Vicki Finson, executive vice president of blood services at Bloodworks Northwest puts it. News about COVID-19 got overwhelming, and "People stopped donating blood, almost overnight," she says. By the end of the week, blood stores were so low that Bloodworks Northwest did something it'd never done before—activated a task force that requests stock from around the country. Eight other blood banks stepped up. But then something else happened.
The organization also put out a local call for more donations around the PNW, hyped it on social media. Centers reworked chairs and waiting areas to accommodate social distancing. The next two weeks showed phenomenal response, and now, says Finson, "Our blood inventory is the strongest we've ever seen." Like the rest of us, Bloodworks Northwest is living a roller coaster of highs and lows this spring.
As the sole or primary supplier of blood for more than 80 hospitals in western Washington and Oregon, Bloodworks Northwest is keenly aware of its crucial role in a medical emergency. To implement safety measures for donors and staff, the organization's mobile drives are on hold, and donations are by appointment only.
While the PNW kicked blood-giving butt the last two weeks, it doesn't mean we're set for the duration. Finson notes that they expect to need more donations by mid-April and into May; as any vampire will tell you, fresh blood only lasts so long.
As for safety measures, there has been no recorded evidence of coronavirus transmission through blood transfusion—it's safe on all sides. And as Finson notes, "Even with shelter-in-place, people are allowed and encouraged to donate blood." (Symptomatic donors or those with known virus exposure should, of course, stay home.)
You know what that means: Donating blood will be a get-out-of-the-house free card in April and May. Book now, says Finson. We're going to need you.