Other Opinion: Seize bloody good incentives for donating
Summertime is already a tough time for life-saving blood donations. The kids are out of school, vacations are scheduled, and those burgers and brats aren’t going to grill themselves. Who wants to make the time, too, to get poked by a needle and then eat a cookie?
This summer is shaping up to be particularly strained with blood drives canceled the past three or so months and even regular donors leery of the threat of coronavirus spread and the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, a shortage of blood is being exacerbated by an aggressive resumption of elective surgeries and other medical procedures that waited out the springtime COVID-19 shutdown.
Given the critical need, the Northland Red Cross has scheduled a series of blood drives this week in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. More are expected as we move deeper into summer.
And the blood drives come with an added incentive: free testing of all blood, platelet, and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. In other words, donors will be able to find out if they were infected by the coronavirus and didn’t know it. The testing will show whether their bodies produced antibodies in response.
“It’s a good measure of the exposure we’ve had in the community and helps you make smart decisions around your safety.” Dan Williams, executive director for Northern Minnesota American Red Cross, said in an interview last week with Fox 21 in Duluth.
During a normal summer, the American Red Cross may see as many as 100,000 fewer blood donations than what patients need nationally, Sue Thesenga of the American Red Cross in St. Paul said in a statement. The Red Cross relies on donations from volunteers for the 14,000 blood donations needed every day to support patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers around the country.
Those numbers and that need are even greater this summer of COVID-19. So a greater effort is needed on our part — a conscious, deliberate effort — to give, even when our minds are on a thousand other things, including avoiding getting sick. The need for blood doesn't get any time off no matter how nice the weather or how concerning the public health risk.
This week’s blood drives won’t allow walk-in donations, out of respect for the very real need to continue to maintain distancing and other safety protocols. Appointments can be made instead by downloading the free Blood Donor app , visiting redcrossblood.org , calling 800-733-2767, or enabling the "Blood Donor Skill" on any Alexa Echo device.
And here’s another bonus: All those who give in June will receive a $5 Amazon gift card via email, the Red Cross announced.
Summer is busy. This year it comes with more anxiety. No one disputes either of those points. But there's also no disputing that the need for blood never takes a break.