By Brooke Holland

Noozhawk Staff Writer

Blood donations are essential amid the coronavirus response, and it’s important to maintain stable blood supplies to help people who rely on lifesaving donations, local blood bank officials said Tuesday.

“If you are able to donate blood, we are asking you to come,” said Tony Briggs, CEO of the American Red Cross of Central California.

Blood is perishable, and it’s “not something we can keep around forever,” Briggs said. A blood donation has a shelf life of about 56 days, he added.

Blood donations are regularly needed for cancer patients, people with sickle cell anemia, accident victims and other emergencies, Briggs said.

“Although we are in a COVID situation,” he said. “There are people who still need lifesaving blood, and that’s the reason we are constantly asking people to donate.”

More than 19,000 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled nationwide over the past month, leading to a deficit of more thanhalf a million potentially life-saving blood donations, Briggs said.

“That has put a strain on the system,” he added.

Eligible donors have stepped up to help in these uncertain times.

The Red Cross is encouraging healthy donors to schedule an appointment in the weeks ahead to ensure a stable supply. The humanitarian organization is urging people to keep scheduled appointments.

“The great thing is over the past few weeks, we have asked the American public to come out and donate, and they have done just that,” Briggs said. “We are ecstatic on the response we have had, but we are asking people to make an appointment to donate in the next two to three weeks.”

Briggs continued: “We are asking people, since they have time and are at home, get on, and make an appointment — keep that appointment, and they will be able to help save lives in the future.”

The Red Cross, in coordination with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients to help others with COVID-19, Briggs said.

Individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus, Briggs explained.

“We are working with the FDA to develop a therapy that will help those who are suffering through COVID-19,” Briggs said. “It is the trial, and we have had some success. It’s not a cure, but it is something that we are working on.”

Clickhere for more information about donating plasma to help treat patients seriously ill with COVID-19. 

A large number of blood drives on the Central Coast were canceled in the wake of the onset of the coronavirus, a respiratory-infection outbreak.

Blood supply has taken a hit since shelter-in-place orders were implemented in late March, including temporarily shutting down schools and workplaces to curb the spread of the virus.

Blood drives often occur at college campuses, places of worship and other locations now shuttered.

Vitalant reported about 150 blood drives have been canceledacross Ventura and through San Luis Obispo counties between mid-March through May — resulting in approximately 4,000 pints of uncollected blood donations.

“That is about half of our blood drives during that time,” said Sherie DeVillers, donor recruitment supervisor for Vitalant.