Donors leave their homes to give blood

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- A few weeks ago, the alert over the spread of the COVID-19 virus put a virtual halt to blood drives around the country.

Blood donation centers run by the American Red Cross and others are still trying to deal with a shortage of donations.

However, a bustling blood drive at UC Davis Health’s Sacramento campus was in stark contrast to what has been happening statewide.

In Northern California alone there have been 142 blood drive cancellations, resulting in 4,660 fewer donations.

That's why Thursday’s drive was so encouraging.

“We’re working really hard to get the word out that we need these donations,” said Stephen Walsh with the American Red Cross Gold Country Region. “We have definitely seen an increase in the number of people who are willing to donate.”

Drives are usually co-sponsored by businesses, clubs, nonprofit groups and churches, all of which have drastically restricted any kind of group activities.

Many donors work in the UC Davis Health system and know firsthand how critical blood and blood products are needed for surgeries like transplants, treating illnesses and traumatic injuries in emergency rooms.

But about half of the donors were ordinary people not willing to stay at home despite the virus threat. Donating blood is deemed an essential activity. 

Precautions are taken and online screening weeds out those who have been exposed to the virus or who have traveled abroad recently.

Donors will also notice extended precautions once they arrive for their appointment.

“Taking your temperature at least twice, wiping down the beds where you are laying down to donate blood and when you're finished they're wiped down again. And they are asking those questions again and again whether you are healthy and eligible,” Walsh explained.

A number of donors wanted to give Thursday without making appointments and had to be turned away.

The American Red Cross’ website lists future drives that people can sign up for. It allows for donations to be spread out to minimize waiting and make collections more efficient. People are being asked to plan weeks and months ahead to donate.

Of course, it will take more than just a few blood drives to make up for the demand. The American Red Cross and other donation centers are hoping potential donors will realize the critical need and contribute.

The American Red Cross Gold Country Region also has permanent donation sites in Yuba City, Stockton, Modesto, Turlock and Sonora.

“This is a situation that is certainly not over and the need for blood is on-going,” Walsh told FOX40.

Along with the Red Cross, Vitalant has numerous blood donation centers in the Sacramento area.

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