Tag Archives: Regional

Blood Donors Turn Out To Give During COVID-19 Outbreak

It’s a rainy, chilly Tuesday in Fairfield, Calif., the spring blooms drooping under the March wet. The forecast mirrors the national mood amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: a sober longing for warmer, brighter days.

Inside the American Red Cross Solano County chapter office, the outlook is undeniably more optimistic. In place of the normal tables and chairs are padded beds, techs bustling about in red scrubs, glass vials, plastic tubing, gauze and the ubiquitous red blood drop stress balls. The office’s Red Cross inhabitants have made room to welcome a new team and a lifesaving service: a blood drive.

Spearheaded by Solano County Disaster Program Manager Vincent Valenzuela, the drive was organized in response to the ever-present need for blood donations. With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing many communities to shelter in place, the Red Cross has cancelled approximately 7,000 scheduled blood drives, resulting in nearly 200,000 fewer blood donations. Someone within the US needs blood every two seconds, regardless if there’s a pandemic; the need is constant.

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Solano County Disaster Program Manager Vincent Valenzuela gives blood in the Fairfield office on March 24.

“My thought was ‘why not host a blood drive (at the Fairfield office)?’” said Valenzuela, sitting in his office while waiting to give blood. “We have the space, we have the means to host a drive here, so let’s make it happen.”

And happen it did: donation slots filled quickly once registration opened online. Despite the grey skies and a late start, the drive was soon up to speed and collecting much-needed blood.

While donors may have initially been hesitant to leave their homes during the current “social distancing” mandate, the Red Cross added additional measures to ensure safety. Donors’ temperatures were taken as soon as they entered the office; anyone with a fever was sent home. Jugs of hand sanitizer were visibly stationed around the room. Donor beds, situated further apart to allow for social distancing, were wiped down with sterile wipes after each donation. Even the ever-present red blood drop squeeze balls were encased in a new latex glove for each donor.

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Red Cross volunteer Kathy Savage takes temperatures as donors walk into the Fairfield office.

These additional precautions, in step with the FDA-mandated measures already in place for blood donations, have allowed the Red Cross to continue blood procurement at drives like Fairfield and many new drives being added across the country every day. Efforts to reassure the public that it is indeed safe to venture out to give blood is clearly paying off as evidenced by the growing demand for more opportunities to give. Potential donors are requested to persist in their search for an available drive in their area, even if they must adjust the date and search radius parameters. 

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Donor beds are thoroughly wiped down after every donation.

By day’s end, the Fairfield drive had taken in nearly 30 units of lifesaving blood, potentially saving up to 90 lives. As donors lingered in the canteen area, sipping apple juice and nibbling Cheez-Its, they chatted as strangers united in a new, shared reality: the challenges of working from home, or not working at all; the best nearby grocery stores to procure eggs; the unseen elephant in every room: COVID-19.

While there are not yet answers to the many unknowns posited by the pandemic, there is reassurance in the ability to be of service to others. Please join the Red Cross by being of service to your community, your neighbors, your loved ones by giving blood – now and often. For more information and to search for a blood drive in your community, please visit RedCrossBlood.org.

Thank you, once more, to our incredible volunteers!

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Volunteers are the lifeline of the American Red Cross, providing critical services such as educating clients on home fire prevention. (Photo: Samar M. Salma; American Red Cross)
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Every April, the American Red Cross joins organizations around the world to shine a spotlight on the people who make the real difference in our communities: our volunteers. Their selfless time, energy, compassion, and dedication are what get the work of the Red Cross done.

National Volunteer Week takes place this year from April 19th through April 25th. As a ramp-up to this special time, now is the perfect moment to recognize – once more – the incredible volunteers honored throughout our region at our 2019 Volunteer Recognition Events:

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Our region is helping address the severe blood shortage

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Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. (If you can’t find a blood drive in your area right now, please check back as Red Cross teams are rescheduling them as quickly as possible. Thank you!)
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As the coronavirus pandemic has grown in the U.S., blood drive cancellations have also grown at an alarming rate. As of March 18, nearly 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled across the country due to concerns about congregating at workplaces, college campuses, and schools during the coronavirus outbreak. These cancellations have resulted in some 150,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type.

Just in Northern California alone, more than 100 blood drives have been cancelled in recent weeks, resulting in the loss of more than 3,300 units of blood.

“When you consider that each unit can save up to three lives when it is separated into the different life-saving blood components, this shortfall could potentially impact close to 10,000 people,” says Justin Mueller, Donor Services Executive for the Northern California Blood Services Region.

Mueller says the Northern California Coastal Region’s four chapters are each making a special effort to reschedule blood drives. “The overwhelming support and collaboration of people across this region’s counties to help identify and gain commitments from groups to host blood drives has helped tremendously,” he says. “Just in the last 24 hours, we have had 10 locations commit to helping us fill at least 15 of the days we lost blood drives.”

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A blood drive was held recently in the Bay Area Chapter’s San Francisco office.

Mueller says Red Cross teams are also making extra efforts to safeguard the donors, volunteers, and staff at these drives — and the blood that is collected. “This can be seen firsthand by observing the additional safety measures we have put in place, including checking donor temperatures before entering the blood drive, swapping out gloves more frequently, and increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. While we have spaced chairs and beds further apart to ensure better social distancing practices, I’d also encourage folks to make an appointment to help us avoid donors that would otherwise drop in at the same time causing crowds and even small groups to form.”

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees already follow thorough safety protocols to help prevent the spread of any type of infection, including:

  • Wearing gloves and changing them with each donor.
  • Routinely wiping down donor-touched areas.
  • Using sterile collection sets for every donation.
  • Preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

There is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide.

Mueller is thankful for the extra effort blood-services volunteers are making during this difficult time. “We would not be able to carry out our mission without the support of our amazing volunteers,” he says. “And because of the extra safety measures that have been put in place, volunteers are needed more than ever to support this emergency effort.”

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KSBW-TV covered a weekend blood drive that was organized in the Central Coast Chapter’s Santa Cruz office. (See the station’s web and video story.)

He is equally appreciative of the people who have shown up to give blood during this challenging time. “Because of the coronavirus crisis, donors are really needed right now,” Mueller says. “If you are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give, please schedule an appointment to give now.”

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Blood donation process:

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

Christine Welch (909-859-7570, @RedCrossBloodCA, and RedCrossBlood.org) provided key editorial support for this blog post.

Volunteer LouAnne Williams keeps it simple in order to serve hundreds

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(l to r) Eva Marquez, Keith Hoffman, LouAnne Williams, and Jeff Airth. Photography: Kane Wong | American Red Cross
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LouAnne Williams keeps it simple. On October 31, 2013, she began to look for ways to give back to her community. She tried to register with a local hospital but felt that they had an overwhelming number of rules and regulations.  Craving something simpler and more direct, she sought counsel from friends and family. Her son-in-law suggested she try the Red Cross, so LouAnne walked into the front door of the Red Cross, literally across the street from the hospital. And she has never looked back.

LouAnne began her journey as a preparedness instructor and now leads her peers in multiple capacities. Last year, she received the San Mateo County Volunteer of the Year Award, something that came as no surprise to her colleagues.

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Danny Lucas blood drive nets 80 units of blood, almost half of which came from first-time donors

About 100 local residents turn out to honor Watsonville fire captain

Photo of Danny Lucas and his family.

Danny Lucas was joined at last Friday’s blood drive by his sons, Danny Jr. (left) and Chad (right) and by his wife, Cindi. For more photos of this very special drive, please go to this album. For a video clip of blood donor Hilary Weaver, please go here. (Photo: Virginia and Albert Becker)
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Some of the blood donors who flocked to a Red Cross blood drive in Watsonville last Friday are regular donors at the once-a-month blood drive at the Pajaro Valley Health Trust. But, on this particular day, at this particular drive, it was clear that many more came out of respect for a local resident who has given so much to his community during a 35-year career with the Watsonville Fire Department.

“When I read the story about Danny Lucas’ accident and this drive in his honor, I immediately made an appointment,” said Hilary Weaver, a Santa Cruz resident who worked alongside Lucas during her dozen years as a paramedic in the Watsonville area. Read more

Providing solutions for the most fragile

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Volunteer of the Year Award recipient Tiffany Deneaux (second from right) with Vincent Valenzuela (left), Alzinia Pailin (second from left), and John Ruiz (right).
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Tiffany Deneaux first volunteered for the Red Cross in 2017 during the Tubbs Fire after her local YMCA in Marin was converted into a shelter for the fire victims. In two short years, she’s deployed several times and stepped into leadership roles. For this commitment and vigor, Tiffany received the 2019 Marin County Volunteer of the Year.

“[During Tubbs,] I worked in the warehouse. I got in with the planning department and got to see them in action…it just kind of caught me,” explains Deneaux. “The people seemed extremely dedicated and seemed very idealistic and very much in support of the community.” 

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At the end of the day, we do good for people

By Debbi Behrman

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Ed Silva with City of Oakland Battalion Chief Zoraida Diaz. Photo: Ziji Zhou | American Red Cross
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In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Florida and Louisiana causing catastrophic damage and loss of life. It was the deadliest hurricane in the United States since 1928.  A month later, Ed Silva saw that help was still needed, and he called the Red Cross to volunteer. Ed went in one day for training, and the next, he was on a plane to Florida.

This past year, Ed received the Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership. It turns out that Katrina was just the beginning of an action-filled volunteer career with the Red Cross that spans 15 years.

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