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There's A Critical Blood Shortage. Can South Texas Donate At A Safe Distance?

A three-day blood drive at the Alamodome hopes to end a critical blood shortage in San Antonio.
Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
A three-day blood drive at the Alamodome hopes to end a critical blood shortage in San Antonio.

Tuesday was the first day of a three-day blood drive at the Alamodome to end a critical blood shortage in the city.  

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center reports blood supplies have dropped rapidly as San Antonians embrace social distancing due to the coronavirus.

They hope to get at least 1,800 donations during the drive that ends Thursday. The drive runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

The center supplies blood and blood components to 100 hospitals in 48 counties,  including University Hospital, which reports elective surgeries have been canceled so supplies remain for more serious cases.

Center Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Waltman wants San Antonians to think about those they can help by rolling up their sleeves.

“Think about cancer patients. Folks that have to have emergent surgeries,” she said. “Trauma victims.  All those people use blood and if we don’t get blood on the shelves, then it’s not going to be there for them.”

Waltman said many of the donor organizations they rely on have become scarce as many San Antonians choose to stay inside.

“As the community reacts to the coronavirus, many of our organizations are sending their employees home,” she said. “The schools have closed. Universities are sending their students home.  Faith-based organizations have essentially started reaching their congregations through electronic means, and what that means for us is that those places that normally have blood drives are not having blood drives.”

The south end of the dome is filled with screened booths and donor lounges. Free parking is located in Lot A, also on the south end of the dome.

Abigail Driskill, 18, is a Providence High School student.  She thought it would be a good time to donate since the city is shutting down in so many ways

Abigail Driskill, 18, is a Providence High School student.
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Abigail Driskill, 18, is a Providence High School student.

“There’s really nothing going on right now,” she said. “All the restaurants and all the bars and all that staff is closed right now. So we are probably all at home watching some Netflix, but like they’re taking really good precautions over here.”

Rick Hill, who is the vice president for marketing of the Alamo Bowl, just had to go downstairs to donate. He agrees with Driskill that the environment feels safe.

“I think, you know, they have it set up where everybody is, you know, the proper distance apart and I think everyone’s doing the right procedures, and I’ll be sure to be cleaning myself after it’s over as well,” he said.

There is plenty of hand sanitizer around for donors to use to clean themselves. And the donor loungers and private booths set up to take donations are set up at safe distances.

And Waltman said there is one big precaution they are taking.

“Once you get here, the first thing we are going to do is take your temperature and if you have a temperature we’re not going to let you proceed,” she said. “We’re going to ask you to leave. You need to go home and you won’t be able to donate until you’re fever free for at least 24 hours.”

Interested donors need to log on at SouthTexasBlood.org or call 210-731-5590 to make an appointment before going to the dome to give.

All donors undergo a mini physical and are asked about recent travels.

Donors should be 17 or older, in general good health and weigh at least 110 pounds

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has said that blood donation is a safe action people can take at a time many feel powerless.

And the Food and Drug Administration reports there have been no reported or suspected cases of coronavirus related to blood transfusions or to those giving blood.

Officials with the City of San Antonio has confirmed a fifth positive case of COVID-19. It's listed on the city's website as under investigation.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian