U-M community rallies to support blood drives

April 20, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Thank you to all who have donated blood in support of the recent blood shortage. The generosity of the U-M community was astonishing, exceeding capacity at the recent Michigan Medicine blood drives. Your donations have helped to save countless lives and your continued support is appreciated.

Michigan Medicine recognized

Michigan Medicine has been recognized as a leader in Southeast Michigan for its willingness to step up and exceed expectations during the urgent need for blood due to the COVID-19 situation. The organization was invited to attend a national call on April 16 called Presidential Update: Delivering the Red Cross Mission during the Coronavirus Outbreak with Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern.

“Thank you all for standing by us. You and your employees do it all for us: you provide financial assistance, you volunteer and you donate blood,” said McGovern. “With the support of donors like you, we’re able to fulfill our mission despite these extraordinary circumstances.”

The need for blood

The COVID-19 outbreak led to approximately 19,000 blood drive cancellations across the country, equating to 540,000 units of blood. As coronavirus continued to spread across the country and social distancing measures were instituted, many blood drive locations such as universities and organizations closed their doors and were forced to cancel drives.

In response to the changing climate, the Red Cross instituted new policies and protocols surrounding their drives. They implemented social distancing guidelines, ensuring beds were placed at least six feet apart. They also began wearing masks and gloves, taking donor and employee temperatures before appointments, sanitizing beds and canteen stations, and using hand sanitizer before, during and after donation.

Blood drives continue to be recognized as an essential service in Michigan. The governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe policy explicitly provides an exemption for individuals travelling to and from blood donation appointments.

The public responded with great generosity when the need for blood was announced. The Red Cross was happy to announce that the immediate need for blood has now been addressed. However, donors are still encouraged to make appointments to donate blood. When the virus passes, the need for blood will increase as life-saving surgeries such as bone marrow transplants, organ transplants, and more begin to occur more frequently. Many of these procedures are currently occurring at diminished capacities in order to dedicate bed space to COVID patients and keep immunocompromised patients safe.

There are only limited options to anticipate the need for blood as standard services resume. Only certain blood products such as plasma can be frozen. Other products have a limited shelf life (21-35 days for whole blood, 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets).

Plasma donations

Blood donations are not currently being used to treat COVID-19 patients but plasma may offer a new treatment. Convalescent plasma is being evaluated as a possible treatment for COVID-19 patients. Individuals who have recovered from the virus are being asked to donate plasma for those who have been recently diagnosed. Donors must have had a positive COVID-19 test, have gone 14 days without symptoms with a current negative COVID-19 test, or have gone 28 days no symptoms if they do not have a negative test.

Donor criteria may change as antibody testing becomes available. You can find more about this treatment by clicking here.

New donation criteria

The FDA has recently removed some restrictions on blood donation in response to the COVID-19 situation. These changes affect eligibility for men who have sex with men, variant Crutsfeld-Jakob disease or “mad cow,” and malaria. To see if you’re eligible, please visit this site or call 1- 800-RED-CROSS.

Donors still needed

Donors are encouraged to continue making appointments to donate blood. If appointments are full at your next blood drive, please book further out. Although the immediate need for blood is no longer urgent, future needs will continue to grow. The Red Cross needs donors to continue making appointments to avoid another blood shortage.

“We all thank you so very, very much for supporting our mission. Especially at this time when you’re all feeling the impact of this virus” said McGovern.

U-M has confirmed the following on-campus blood drives. To make an appointment, please visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. With social distancing precautions, fewer appointments are available and the drives will not be able to accept walk-ins.

  • April 22-23: 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Towsley Lobby, University Hospital (Michigan Medicine employees only and the drive is currently full)
  • May 6: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Junge Family Champions Center (public welcome)
  • May 19-20: 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Towsley Lobby, University Hospital (Michigan Medicine employees only)
  • May 26: 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Campus Safety Services (public welcome)
  • June 1: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Rackham Graduate School (public welcome)
  • June 10: 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Towsley Lobby, University Hospital

For more information, please contact Megan Podschlne at 734-812-5519 or mmpodschl@med.umich.edu.