Anyone who’s gone shopping since March 2020 has seen grocery store aisles completely cleaned out — an unfortunate side effect of the coronavirus pandemic. But while shortages of toilet paper and nonperishables have been a staple of this crisis, another type of organization has been experiencing shortages: blood banks.
In the wake of stay at home orders and facility closures, the number of blood drives across the country has been severely limited. As a result, blood banks have found themselves in great need of donations.
To address this concern, three YMCAs in the Tampa, Florida area — the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, YMCA of the Suncoast and YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg — have teamed up with OneBlood and LifeSouth to host blood drives at their various facilities on Friday, April 17.
“During our temporary closure to members, the YMCAs of Tampa Bay are working together to adapt our facilities and services to better serve our communities during these challenging times,” said Shannon Sprowls, the vice president of healthy living at the YMCA of the Suncoast.
The Ys and blood banks in the Tampa area have a longstanding partnership, according to Sprowls. “Since 2003, the YMCA of the Suncoast has collaborated with OneBlood to host more than 25 blood drives,” she explained. “Likewise, the Hernando County YMCA and Citrus Memorial Health Foundation YMCA have been hosting blood drives with LifeSouth for at least five years. It was a natural reconnection when we heard about the blood supply shortage.”
On Friday 17 at 10:30 a.m. EST, OneBlood will be taking blood donations at six YMCA of the Suncoast locations, as well as the Bardmoor YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of St. Petersburg. Donors will get a free water bottle and wellness checkup that includes pulse temperature, blood pressure, iron count and cholesterol screening.
At the same time, LifeSouth will be taking donations at two YMCA of the Suncoast locations. Donors at LifeSouth will get a free T-shirt and coupon for free pizza. The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA will be hosting its blood drives at a later date in May.
To abide by current social distancing standards, the blood drives will have certain precautions in place to keep donors safe.
“No more than four donors will be allowed on our mobile bus at a time, which includes no more than two donors in the phlebotomy bed area, sitting diagonal from each other,” said Amy Lee, the manager of donor recruitment for OneBlood locations in Pinellas and Polk Counties. “We are using a sign-in sheet and will call the donor when it’s their turn, and when there is room within the mobile bus to start the donation process.”
The blood drives will also have signs on the door advising on social distancing, as well as asking anyone exposed to COVID-19 not to enter the donation area. These signs will also list at-risk counties, and explain that the blood bank doesn’t test for COVID-19.
Additionally, the blood bank staff members will be prepared. “Our staff will wear gloves and a disposable mask,” said Lee. “They will also clean and decontaminate by spraying disinfectant on beds between donors, and periodically wiping down other frequently-touched surfaces like handles, clipboards and pens, etc.”