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Start of school year used to boosts donations but offers no relief amid COVID-19. 

Rhode Island Blood Center encourages more people to become blood donors and existing donors to give more frequently at their six donor centers and mobile blood drives.

Continued blood drive cancellations put supply at risk.

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how blood centers across the country operate to meet the needs of hospitals and patients. Before COVID-19, mobile blood drives hosted by high schools, colleges, businesses, and other organizations made up over 50% of the region’s incoming blood supply, but the number of mobile drives has dropped considerably as these groups are no longer functioning the way they did prior to the pandemic. To date, RIBC has seen 689 mobile blood drive cancellations from March through August. 

The upcoming school year presents new and unprecedented challenges. Blood donations are typically lower during the summer, and the return to school helps stabilize the blood supply again. For example, in the last academic year, 95 high schools and colleges held 223 blood drives. Those organizations are up-in-the-air about how they are operating this academic year, leaving over 7,500 donations at risk from schools alone. 

 “We’ve always relied on the fall to provide a boost in blood donations from high school and college blood drives that are large and well-attended, but very few of those are happening,” said Kara LeBlanc of the Rhode Island Blood Center. “The pandemic is forcing us to rethink the entire landscape, which means encouraging donors to take the extra step of making an appointment at one of our six donor centers or donating at one of the mobile blood drives that are operating now. The loss of the opportunity to engage young donors at their schools where it is most convenient for them to donate is particularly concerning because the future of the blood supply is dependent on this demographic of donors becoming lifetime donors.”

RIBC began hosting a limited number of drives again this summer; however, they are far from the number of drives per month needed to support area hospitals. Blood from volunteer donors is needed every two seconds to help women and newborns during complications with childbirth; people battling cancer or undergoing chemotherapy; people who have suffered trauma or severe burns; people with heart and kidney disease and blood disorders like sickle cell anemia; and individuals who need surgery and organ transplants. 

RIBC is encouraging eligible donors of all ages to adapt to this new normal by making appointments to visit one of its six donor centers, which have expanded capacity and hours of operation in order to accommodate more donors safely. To make an appointment to donate blood, visit www.ribc.org/givelife. For information on the extra precautions being taken to help prevent the person-to-person spread of COVID-19, visit www.ribc.org/safety

RIBC is also encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to make an appointment to donate convalescent plasma to treat severely ill patients battling COVID-19. RIBC’s network includes independent blood centers across the Northeast and Midwest, and convalescent plasma is being shipped to hotspots across the country. For information on how to donate convalescent plasma, visit www.ribc.org/covidplasma.

RIBC needs more partners to host and support community-based blood drives. www.ribc.org/sponsor

Questions can be directed to Kara LeBlanc, Marketing Communications Manager, kleblanc@ribc.org, or 401-453-8555.