Carter BloodCare and the American Red Cross are seeking blood donors, amid an urgent nationwide need as hospitals resume elective procedures and people begin to leave their homes more.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Waco and McLennan County in March, it resulted in the cancellation of blood drives, in addition to school, church services and many other everyday activities. About 500 blood drives across North, East and Central Texas were canceled between March and May, said Vickie Carpenter, Carter BloodCare Central Texas manager of operations.
That did not cause much of a problem at the time because demand for blood also dropped, Carpenter said. The state ordered hospitals to postpone all elective surgeries for several weeks, and people were required to stay at home unless they had to go to work or run essential errands. Although Carter BloodCare remained open as an essential business in Texas, hardly anyone came to donate blood.
"We're essential," she said. "We have not closed our doors or stopped doing blood drives. We need those donors and the community to come in to donate blood for those patients in the hospitals."
But since Gov. Greg Abbott began lifting restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in late April, the need for blood donations has grown by 30%, according to the Red Cross. The demand declined sharply in early April, after Abbott declared a state of disaster amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, leading many hospital procedures to be postponed.
Carpenter said Carter BloodCare has been in a "prolonged state of crisis" when it comes to blood supplies for about a month and that the blood donation center needs all healthy donors to give blood.
"You can't manufacture blood. We have to take care of each other by stepping up and donating," she said. "We are in a time of critical need."
Between 600 and 800 patients need blood transfusions every day across North, East and Central Texas, where the nonprofit Carter BloodCare is located, Carpenter said. Sometimes patients need more than one unit, particularly those involved in wrecks on highways. She said emergency health care workers can use 20 units or more of blood to find what is wrong with someone in a wreck and to stop the bleeding.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate, too, if they have been well for 28 days and received two negative COVID-19 test results, Carpenter said. They also can donate plasma to help patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Both Carter BloodCare and the Red Cross are following safety standards to help prevent the spread of infection, requiring face masks, temperature checks and social distancing while donating. Donors must complete a health questionnaire and have a driver's license or two forms of identification. All blood types are needed.
People who donate to the Red Cross through June 30 will receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card via email. For more information, visit RedCrossBlood.org/Together.