With supply running low, donors urged to take part in 2-day blood drive at hospital

Donors asked to make appointment to ensure social distancing

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Blood donations

FARMINGTON — A two-day blood drive will be held next week outside the San Juan Regional Medical Center, and organizers are encouraging residents to take part as demands on the blood supply increase.

Kristan Velarde, a senior donor recruitment representative for Vitalant, which will be conducting the blood drive, said the blood supply remained largely stable through the middle of April as hospitals canceled all elective procedures because of the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases. But with the resumption of those procedures, the situation has changed, she said.

"Now that everything has picked back up, our blood supply is extremely low right now," she said.

Velarde said the number of blood donations has been falling steadily since an early spike during the COVID-19 shutdown, when it seemed many people were eager to do something positive to help others. Since then, she said, many potential donors seem to have been scared away out of a fear of contracting the virus.

That has left blood banks scrambling for help.

"We are actually seeking a massive amount of donors to come out there and help us, if possible," she said.

Velarde emphasized that potential donors shouldn't feel like they are putting themselves at risk by participating in a blood drive.

"Donating is safe," she said.

Vitalant has a number of protocols in place to prevent anyone from contracting the virus, she said, including asking donors to make an appointment in order to maintain social distancing and ensure that a crowd of donors doesn't build up.

She said all the beds on the bloodmobiles are at least 6 feet apart, and all Vitalant personnel wear masks at all times.

"Their risk is extremely low at participating in a blood drive," Velarde said.

The drive will run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27 and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 28. A pair of bloodmobile units from Vitalant will be stationed in the hospital's main parking lot at 801 W. Maple St. in Farmington to receive the donations.

Those interested in donating blood can schedule an appointment online by visiting bloodhero.com and entering the sponsor code SJRMC. They also can schedule an appointment by phone by calling or texting Velarde at 505-686-9777. A press release from the hospital said walk-in donors will be accommodated if possible.

Donors will not be tested for COVID-19, but they will be screened for symptoms and potential exposure, according to the press release. Donors must be at least 16 years old and have the signed permission of a parent or guardian if they are younger than 18. They must weigh at least 110 pounds, be in general good health and bring an ID. Donors also should not be under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs at the time of their donation.

Donors are encouraged to drink plenty of water 24 to 48 hours before their donation and consume 8 to 16 ounces an hour before their appointment. They also are encouraged to consume a healthy, low-fat meal approximately two hours before their appointment.

Anyone making a donation should expect to spend approximately an hour at the site, although the actual act of donating blood lasts only about 10 minutes, according to the press release.

Velarde said her organization is seeking help from organizations that have a large indoor space and are interested in serving as a host site for a blood drive. She expects demands on the blood supply to increase rapidly over the next several weeks.

"People have largely been inside for several weeks, but with summer coming, more people will be getting outdoors and traveling, and, unfortunately, that means more accidents," she said. "We need to have more blood available for those tragedies."

Velarde said any group willing to open its facilities for a blood drive should contact her at the aforementioned number.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com.