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LifeSouth plans for upcoming blood drives

The public is being urged to avoid crowds, stay home and practice social distancing, but there’s at least one destination that’s still seeking a steady stream of visitors – and that’s LifeSouth.

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers is continuing to operate donor centers and host mobile blood drives, and agency officials join the Centers for Disease Control in encouraging the public that it is safe to donate blood during this time.

Despite the fears and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC reports no cases of coronavirus or flu virus have been linked to blood exposure.

“Right now we all have the power to make a difference,” reads a LifeSouth message on social media. “Blood donations have sharply declined over the last week. Area hospital patients are in need.

“If you are healthy and able, please find a drive near you or join us at a blood donor center,” the message adds, “because it is safe to donate blood.”

Three LifeSouth mobile blood drives are on the schedule for April and early May in Franklin County:

  • April 6: Franklin County Health Department, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • April 16: Vina High School, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • May 6: Phil Campbell High School, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s always a safe process because we are regulated by the FDA and follow guidelines set by them,” explained Eric Franchois, district community development coordinator for LifeSouth. “In times like this we’re reminded how valuable life is and how much of need for blood there is.”

Franchois said while maintaining social distancing can be a challenge in a the mobile unit, LifeSouth is taking “every precaution that we can to ensure the safety of everybody,” including extra disinfecting between donors.

LifeSouth targets at least 20 donors per day from the northwest Alabama area to ensure sufficient blood supply.

Franchois encouraged donors to feel healthy and well before they come to donate to “ensure the safety of not only other donors but our staff – to make sure they aren’t spreading any kind of extra germs.”

Franchois said the local drives at Phil Campbell and Vina are definitely tentative at this point but still scheduled as of March 24. Potential donors should visit the website or call before coming to donate to make sure a drive has not been canceled or rescheduled. “Everything is in flux.”

A LifeSouth infographic at www.lifesouth.org/covid-19 notes several points related to blood donation during this time:

  1. The FDA and CDC have not recommended any additional action be taken by blood centers regarding coronavirus.
  2. According to the FDA, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 transmitted by blood transfusion.
  3. Routine donor screening measures including travel deferrals should prevent donors with respiratory infections from giving blood.
  4. Healthy donors must continue to donate regularly to ensure blood is available for patients when they need it.
  5. When a public health crisis occurs, it is the blood already on the shelf that saves lives.

“In healthcare settings all across the United States, donated blood is a lifesaving, essential part of caring for patients,” notes the CDC. “The need for donated blood is constant, and blood centers are open and in urgent need of donations. CDC encourages people who are well to continue to donate blood if they are able, even if they are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19.

“CDC is supporting blood centers by providing recommendations that will keep donors and staff safe. Examples of these recommendations include spacing donor chairs 6 feet apart, thoroughly adhering to environmental cleaning practices and encouraging donors to make donation appointments ahead of time.”

To schedule an appointment at an upcoming blood drive in Franklin County, or to locate more nearby opportunities, visit donors.lifesouth.org/donor/schedules/zip. LifeSouth is the blood supplier for Russellville Hospital as well as North Alabama Medical Center and other hospitals across the state.