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Blood centers cite critical need for donors as virus cancels blood drives

'It is constantly needed as a lifesaving resource. People need to donate.'

GENEVA – With more than 90 blood drives canceled just this month due to the coronavirus pandemic, Versiti Blood Center of Illinois – formerly Heartland Blood Centers – is asking prospective donors to come to their centers and donate.

There is a Versiti Blood Center at 2000 W. State St., Geneva.

Associate Medical Director Dr. Kevin Ha said the cancellation of blood drives means a shortage of blood supply will occur, as the COVID-19 situation continues.

“Blood product is the most common procedure in hospitals,” Ha said. “It is constantly needed as a lifesaving resource. People need to donate.”

According to an American Red Cross news release, nearly 2,700 of its blood drives have been canceled across the nation, resulting in 86,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80% of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from volunteer drives.

“The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak,” according to the release. “Healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.”

Individuals can donate blood every 56 days. To be a whole blood donor, people must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with written parental permission; weigh at least 110 pounds; be symptom-free of cold, flu and allergies; and be in general good health, according to Versiti and the American Red Cross.

The coronavirus situation is different from other natural disasters that are more regional, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Ha said.

“All blood centers across the nation pool their resources and send them to the region to ensure hospitals get the blood products they need,” Ha said. “COVID-19 is affecting everyone, all across the nation. There is no longer that safety net of being able to route blood products. That is kind of an added issue that is facing the blood supply, with all the canceled blood drives.”

A pint of blood is divided into its respective parts as needed for patients, Ha said.

“For example, cancer patients typically require more platelets than anything, where an individual undergoing surgery might need more red blood cells,” Ha said.

The average blood drives have 20 to 30 donors at a time, he said.

But with people avoiding crowds and cancellations of drives occurring at workplaces, schools and churches, blood centers need the public to step up and go to the blood center donation sites, Ha said.

“What we’re trying to do is have donors go to our website and search for a blood center or by ZIP code for blood drives, as some are able to keep some of the scheduled drives,” Ha said. “We are increasing our messaging for need as well as discussing measures we are taking to ensure safety.”

Some of the changes are to ask donors questions regarding their potential risk factors for COVID-19, such as respiratory symptoms, taking their temperatures and asking screening questions, Ha said.

There are no reported cases of coronavirus being transmitted through blood or blood products, Ha said.

COVID-19 is in a class of respiratory viruses in which transmission is by coughing directly or via a surface that is touched, and then the person touches their face, Ha said.

“We have increased cleaning of all donor-related areas, including the collection bed and screening area and the post recovery area,” Ha said. “Where capable, we are looking at rearranging areas to ensure six feet of separation is observed, as well as our scheduling to minimize the number of donors who are in the center or at the drive at a certain time.”

If there are too many donors, Ha said, the agency would have them wait in their cars to be texted when they should come into the center or the tent.

Versiti is the new name of the combination of Heartland in Illinois, the Blood Center of Wisconsin, the Indiana Blood Center and Michigan Blood Center, Ha said.

“We joined together to form an organization where it is better to pool our resources if a shortage occurs,” Ha said. “The re-branding is very recent.”

The American Red Cross still has some blood drives listed online at

• Clarke Mosquito Control Services, 675 Sidwell Court, St. Charles, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 7.

• BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, 1851 Pramukh Swami Road, Bartlett, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 19.

• Pottawatomie Community Center, 8 North Ave., St. Charles, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 10.

• Good Shepherd United Methodist Church 751 Army Trail Road, Bartlett, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. May 17.

Other Versiti Blood Center locations:

• 27W281 Geneva Road, Winfield, 630-690-3222

* 204 Gary Ave., Bloomingdale, 630-295-5814

•1200 N. Highland Ave., Aurora, 630-892-7055

•1140 N. McLean Blvd., Elgin, 847-741-8282

•1297 S. Naper Blvd., Naperville, 630-428-3632

• 6317 S. Fairview, Westmont, 630-810-0334

• 728 E. Veterans Pkwy., Yorkville, 630-553-0917

• 2625 W. Jefferson St., Joliet, 815-744-7966

• 6296 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake, 815-356-0608

Source: Versiti Blood Centers website

U.S. blood donation facts from the American Red Cross:

• Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day.

• Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily.

• Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year.

• The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 units.

• The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O.

• Sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year.

• Sickle cell patients can require blood transfusions throughout their lives.

• According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.8 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.

• A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.

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