The need for people to donate blood doesn't go away in a pandemic. In fact, with coronavirus on the move and COVID-19 cases multiplying, the need for blood donations remains acute, but it's not as easy for agencies to collect it.
So says Liz Lambert, a spokesperson for Vitalant, a national nonprofit blood collection organization that operates several Colorado blood banks.
With people ordered to stay home and schools and many businesses closed, it's harder for Vitalant to collect blood through its usual mobile blood drives, Lambert says. So donors are being asked to give at a permanent blood center.
"There are few things you can do with just an hour of your time that are going to make that big of a difference in someone's life," Lambert says. "There is no substitute for donated blood, and so it's so crucially important that everybody who ... is feeling well and healthy go out and donate in the coming days and weeks."
A blood transfusion is needed every 2 seconds in the United States, the American Red Cross says. Blood is most often needed for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses and traumatic injuries.
"Right now, with hospitals needing to prepare for the worst-case scenarios ... with COVID-19, we want to make sure that blood is one thing they don't have to worry about in treating those other patients," Lambert says.
Vitalant operates what used to be known as the Bonfils Blood Center in Denver, established in 1943 by philanthropist Helen Bonfils. The Denver facility was taken over by Arizona-based Vitalant in 2016.
The organization also runs blood-donation centers in Boulder, Colorado Springs, Golden, Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Parker and Westminster.
So how safe is the blood supply during the ongoing outbreak? Lambert says Vitalant and other blood-donation centers "have very stringent ... rules in place to ensure the safety of the blood supply and the safety of donors and patients and our staff."
Those precautions are being ramped up these days, she says: "You're now being tested for your temperature right away instead of later in the process,” and Vitalant is spacing out chairs in its waiting areas to increase the distance between donors.
Donors are asked to make appointments before going to a collection center to make it easier to enforce social distancing.
To find out where and how to give blood, and to make an appointment, visit https://www.vitalant.org/Our-Organization/Locations.aspx and pull down "Colorado," then find the center nearest you and click on "More details." Or call 303-363-2300.