Blood drives have been considered an essential service in Illinois during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’ve still seen a decline in donations since the pandemic began. Now, as elective surgeries return to full swing at hospitals, local blood centers are asking for more people to donate.
The drop in blood donations initially corresponded with a decrease in elective surgeries because of the stay-at-home order in March and April. But even as elective surgeries return, blood donations at Central Illinois Community Blood Center—which provides blood and blood components at Carle Foundation Hospital and OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center in Champaign-Urbana—remain low.
“Now, activity in hospitals is picking back up,” says Kirby Winn with Community Blood Services of Illinois. “And this is a good thing, but it does mean there is a corresponding increase in the rate of blood utilization, and we’re still dealing with all of the cancellations.”
Blood transfusions are crucial for emergency use and treating trauma, as well as for cancer treatment and other procedures. Winn says the goal is to avoid a situation where hospitals would have to delay surgeries that require blood transfusions due to a lack of blood supply.
“What we’re missing right now is that access and convenience for the donors that our team will come to their location,” Winn says. “We’re not able to do that in every case right now, or the hosts of those events aren’t always able to have us. And that’s impacting the blood supply, which is always challenged during the summer months anyway.”
He adds that local blood centers are prepared to safely bring in donors with social distancing and public health precautions. Blood centers are now asking people to make appointments in advance and to wear masks. They will also conduct pre-donation health screenings.
In Central Illinois, blood center locations include Urbana, Danville, Mattoon, Springfield and Peoria.