TEWKSBURY — Blood donations have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the American Red Cross has had to work quickly to revise its blood drive protocols and assure the public of its safety.
Three blood drives will be held in Tewksbury over the next several weeks, providing an opportunity for residents to donate locally and help boost the blood supply. The Tewksbury Senior Center, while closed for regular business, will be opened for the drives.
Upcoming dates are Saturday, Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. -2 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 25 from 2 - 7 p.m. and Friday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The Town of Tewksbury is assisting by providing the public building space but is not running the drives.
According to the Red Cross, even during the time of stay at home orders and the reduction in people “out and about,” there is still a need for blood products for victims of car accidents, urgent surgeries and those battling diseases which require transfusions.
Donation safety protocols have been put into place to protect donors and Red Cross workers and volunteers. Donor areas have been socially distanced, temperature checks and enhanced health screenings are conducted, and increased sanitizing of surfaces has been enacted to ensure that blood donation is safe for all.
Feedback from those who have donated recently has been positive. One gave this advice:
“Just be patient. The process is taking longer due to all the precautions, but I felt very safe.”
In order to donate blood, donors must be healthy, at least 110 pounds, meet age requirements and not have donated in the previous 56 days. There are separate guidelines for students wishing to donate and for those who may be able to donate additional blood through the Power Red program.
The Red Cross says plasma donation is particularly critical right now, as convalescent plasma is being used as a treatment for those who are critically ill with COVID-19.
According to the Red Cross website, “Plasma from people who have recovered contains antibodies that attack the virus and is being evaluated as a treatment for coronavirus patients.”
Special scheduling is required for plasma donation but is extremely critical to the ongoing fight against the virus.
Additionally, the Red Cross is testing all blood, plasma and platelet donations for COVID-19 antibodies to help with identification of exposure in those who may be asymptomatic. The Red Cross does not operate testing facilities for the coronavirus. The public is asked not go to a blood drive to get a COVID-19 test.
To sign up for donations in Tewksbury, visit https://www.redcross.org/give-blood.html or call 1-800-733-2767.