Neighborhood donor centers are open, safe, and urge donations during COVID-19 response while ALL blood drives held on Hoxworth mobile buses have been cancelled thru the end of April to comply with social distancing standards
By Chuck Gibson
CINCINNATI, OH (April 4, 2020) – Hoxworth Blood Donor Centers remain open for donations by appointment only in neighborhoods throughout the Greater Cincinnati area.
Dr. David Oh, Chief Medical Officer, Hoxworth Blood Center, University of Cincinnati (Provided)
University of Cincinnati, Hoxworth Blood Center officials continue to appeal to the Tri-State community for blood donations to maintain stable levels of blood supply during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response. In order to meet safe protective social distancing requirements, Hoxworth has suspended all blood drives held on mobile buses thru the end of April. Dr. David Oh, Chief Medical Officer for Hoxworth Blood Center explained current donation needs and safety procedures in an interview with Loveland Beacon. Dr. Oh resides in Loveland with his wife Christina and their two daughters – currently LHS students.
“There is a Stay at Home order. The absolute safest thing you can do is stay in your home; that’s what the recommendation is,” said Dr. Oh. “At the same time, Amy Acton, Ohio Director of Health, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the head of F.D.A. are all recognizing the need for blood will continue as the pandemic goes.”
Oh explained the number of blood units needed now has decreased with the cancellation of all elective surgeries by hospitals. Hospitals are trying to reallocate their resources to address their pandemic response needs. At the outset of the pandemic, with uncertainty about what blood needs may be, Hoxworth took steps to prepare for higher demand.
“We didn’t know what would happen to our blood supply,” Oh explained. “At the outset, we doubled our efforts to make sure we collected enough red blood cells. We weren’t sure if donors would come out, or if we would be able to get enough red blood cells. Red cells are good for 42 days. We wanted to stock up on red blood cells the way some people are stocking up on toilet paper.”
Not knowing if donors would respond, Hoxworth appealed to the community to donate blood to help patients, not just in Cincinnati, but in other regions across the U.S. asking for assistance in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Donors did respond. Hoxworth actually has a really good supply of red blood cells right now.
“Platelets are slightly different because we need a continuous flow of donors for white cells,” said OH. “Those expire after five days. It’s like trying to keep your produce fresh at the grocery store. That’s a challenge versus the red cells that last for 42 days. Then plasma is actually good for a year.”
Hoxworth has turned their focus specifically to blood donors with appointments at each of the seven neighborhood donor centers. Donor centers in Anderson, Blue Ash, Hoxworth Central, Ft. Mitchell, Hoxworth North, Tri-County, and Hoxworth West remain open for donors by appointment. Because of the great response of donors making appointments, they are not accepting walk-ins at this time. Hoxworth is checking donor and employee temperatures as they enter the facility.
“We’re trying to make sure that when the donors enter, and our employees too, that they are not at risk because of an active infection,” Oh said. “We ask people to go to the Hoxworth website to make an appointment.”
David Oh, MD, Hoxworth Blood Center, Universtiy of Cincinnati (Provided)
Everyone is checked as they enter a donor center; staff, donor, or visitor. Anyone who has a temperature of 99.5 or higher will be sent home. Dr. Oh also pointed out as donors go online to schedule an appointment during the “Stay at Home Ohio” order, they can print out a document confirming the time and location of their appointment in case they were stopped for being out.
“It has been clearly identified that blood donation is exempt from the Stay at Home order because it is a medical necessity,” Oh explained.
Dr. Oh says we can find risk in almost anything we do. While that is true, he also pointed out the U.S. FDA, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommended no additional action by blood centers is warranted in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Hoxworth and Dr. Oh remains in regular contact with both agencies regarding any recommendations for changes in donation eligibility and screening criteria.
“The coronavirus outbreak poses no additional risk to donors for the mere fact of being blood donors during the donation process,” said OH. “We try to space the chairs as much as we can to protect people. It is impossible to do a blood collection without someone getting near you, but we are limiting it as much as possible. The risk is higher than just staying home, but it is safe. The donors who come out are brave and courageous for not just being home.”
Dr. Oh won’t say there is no risk because staying home is the recommendation for everybody. He does say Public Health officials continue to emphasize blood donation is an activity exempt from the Stay at Home order. Decisively, hospitals and patients are still going to need blood products.
“Even with asking people to make appointments, we’re busy,” said OH. “The response continues to be really strong.”
To be eligible for blood donation, donors must be at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent), feeling generally well and healthy, and have NO ACTIVE cold or flu symptoms. Click here to schedule a donation online, or call 513-451-0910
Blood donatons are still needed – especially platelet donors for white cells (File Chuck Gibson)