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FAQ on Novel Coronavirus and Blood Donation

September 11, 2020 at 5:30 am
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We would like to take this opportunity to provide some additional information about coronavirus and blood donation. Our hope is that people interested in donating blood consider all of the facts of the situation, namely that COVID-19 does not pose any special risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives. We would like to encourage all blood donors to continue to uphold their commitment to helping local patients, who continuously depend on life-saving transfusions.

In order to keep our community healthy and to make sure we are being mindful of your time, we’d like to remind you ahead of your appointment of some of our policies that may affect you eligibility to donate. Please reschedule your appointment if:

  • You have any symptoms of illness, such as a fever, cough, sore throat, congestion or G.I. symptoms.
  • In the past 28 days, you have traveled to a region that is high risk for coronavirus. (If you aren’t sure, please call us at 888-723-7831).
  • In the past 28 days, you have had close contact with someone who is diagnosed with (or is suspected of having) coronavirus; or you have been diagnosed with (or are suspected of having) coronavirus.

For more information on the policies we have in place to ensure donor and patient safety, please call us at 888-723-7831.

What is 2019 novel coronavirus?

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new strain of the coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in late 2019. The virus has spread globally, and there are currently cases within Santa Clara County.

 

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, among others. These symptoms will vary person to person, though most individuals with coronavirus will experience mild to moderate symptoms that do not require hospitalization. To view the full list of symptoms, view the CDC website.

 

How does it spread?

According to Stanford Health Care, the virus is believed to spread “by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” similar to the common cold or flu. Accordingly, the best way to prevent getting the virus is by washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact with your mouth, nose and eyes when your hands are dirty. For more specific guidelines, see “How do I stay healthy?” below. Note that COVID-19 does not pose any special risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives.

 

Is it okay to donate while the shelter-in-place order is in effect?

Yes! Donating blood is an ESSENTIAL service to ensure patient safety. Accordingly, those who work and donate at blood centers and mobile drives are exempted from the shelter in place, per Santa Clara County guidelines.

 

Why is it critical that I continue to give blood during this time?

Even with a shelter in place in effect, individuals in our community — potentially even individuals we know personally — will continue to be in car accidents, need emergency organ transplants, give birth to babies in critical condition, and need chemotherapy. In short, there will still be lives that need saving. We understand that this is a stressful time and want to assure you that we are taking your health and wellness very seriously. All of our practices are designed with this in mind, and additional policies around sanitation and increased distance between donors (to the degree possible) have been implemented as an extra precaution. (See “What measures is SBC taking to ensure donor safety?” below.)


Is SBC testing all donations for antibodies?

Yes! SBC is excited to be performing SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing on each donation, as of July 30. The testing process simply involves drawing one small extra tube during your regular blood donation and will not change the donation process. The results of this test will be made available on your online donor portal, sbcdonor.org. For more information on SBC’s SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing and what your results mean, visit our separate antibody Q&A blog here.

Please note that this is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19; it is meant to determine whether you may have had previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus known to cause COVID-19. Additionally, a positive test result does not guarantee immunity from COVID-19. For a full assessment of previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2, please consult your primary physician.

 

If your appointment schedule is filling up when I want to donate, should I walk into a center?

SBC is accepting walk-ins at this time. However, we recommend that you make an appointment ahead of time to ensure you do not experience extended wait times.

 

Is there a risk of getting coronavirus from donating blood?

COVID-19 does not pose any special risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives. Blood donation is a safe process, and we have implemented additional safety precautions at this time. Please keep in mind that, since blood donors must be healthy and without fever on the day of donation, the risk of exposure to a sick person is extremely low at a blood drive.

 

What measures is SBC taking to ensure donor safety?

  • As always, all of our equipment during the donation process is sterilized, and most is single-use only.
  • Hand sanitizers are placed next to all donation chairs and in each history booth.
  • All donor areas, including the reception/waiting area, canteen, history booths and donation chairs are cleaned frequently, with the latter two being cleaned after each donor.
  • We have increased the spacing between donation chairs to approximately six feet apart or more (to the extent possible) so that there is more distance between donors during the donation process.
  • SBC team members wear face masks and gloves while interacting with donors during the entire donation process. All donors and volunteers are also required to wear face coverings.
  • SBC is continuing to strictly enforce the policy that team members must NOT report to work if they are feeling unwell.

 

What is done to ensure those donating are healthy and well?

  • Per our usual policy, anyone who comes to donate is required to be feeling healthy and well; donors are asked to read a list of COVID-19 symptoms upon entry to a donation location and to report if they are experiencing any of the symptoms. If they report that they are, they will kindly be asked to leave by our registrars for the safety of others onsite. Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
  • All donors are asked if they are feeling well on their donor history questionnaire as soon as they register and are not permitted to stay and donate if they report any symptoms of illness.
  • Per our usual policy, any person who wants to donate blood must have their temperature taken before they donate and is not permitted to stay and donate if they have a fever.
  • The day before their appointment, all donors are sent a reminder email that includes heightened language around ensuring they are feeling well the day of donation and asking that they not come in if they have any symptoms of illness.
  • The reminder email and a poster at registration informs donors that they are not able to donate if they have any risk factors for coronavirus, such as close contact with a person with coronavirus in the past 28 days.

 

I feel healthy, but I’m worried that I have coronavirus but am asymptomatic. Is it still okay to donate?

We really appreciate your concern! The first thing to note is that respiratory viruses are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there is no evidence to-date that this coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can be transfusion-transmitted.

That said, routine blood donor evaluation will help prevent individuals with respiratory infections from donating.  Blood donors must be healthy and have no symptoms of illness or fever on the day of donation (we take temperature on site, per our usual policy).  In addition, we are taking extra precautions for COVID-19 and have in place deferrals for close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

In addition, if you ever do start to develop symptoms, we have a Post-Donation Callback Line that you can call after your donation, and we will immediately perform the appropriate follow-up. This goes for any illness.

If you are not experiencing any symptoms of illness and have not had any known exposure, we would love for you to come donate! We and patients in our community hospitals that need blood transfusions appreciate your willingness to donate during this difficult time for all of us.

 

Are there any international travel deferrals?

When cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. were still low, SBC did implement a deferral for travel to high-risk areas internationally. However, as the global health situation has evolved, we no longer feel that international travel history is an effective way to assess COVID-19 infection risk. In accordance with updated FDA recommendations, on May 28, SBC eliminated COVID-19-related travel deferrals.

 

How can I keep myself healthy?

Please use the following best practices for keeping yourself well:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Wiping down frequently touched surfaces like phones or keyboards with antibacterial wipes
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick with a respiratory illness

It is also important to stay home and minimize contact with others per social distancing regulations, especially if you have symptoms of a respiratory illness like fever or cough.

 

What should I do if I have or am suspected of having coronavirus?

If you have been diagnosed with (or are suspected of having) COVID-19, or if you have had close contact with someone diagnosed with (or suspected of having) COVID-19, please call our Resource Nurse at 650- 725-7336 to discuss your eligibility to donate. If you have recently donated blood and any of the above scenarios apply, please call our Post-Donation Callback Line at 650-724-9968 immediately so we can evaluate your previous donations.

 

Can I get a blood test to find out if I have (or had) COVID-19?

The CDC has provided criteria to guide lab testing for COVID-19.  If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, it is important that you are evaluated by a physician.  After reviewing your medical history, such as symptoms and possible exposures, a physician will determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is not performed at Stanford Blood Center.

 

Can plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 be used to treat patients with active infection?

Stanford Blood Center has established a convalescent plasma program that involves taking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients and transfusing that plasma into critically ill COVID-19 patients in the hopes that the antibodies present in the donated plasma will help save the lives of the recipients. To learn more about this program, including how to participate, visit stanfordbloodcenter.org/covid19plasma.

 

Where can I find updates regarding your policies on coronavirus?

See stanfordbloodcenter.org/novel-coronavirus.

 

If someone can’t donate blood for any reason, are there other ways to help?