Frequently Asked Questions – COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)
Find answers here to commonly asked questions about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it (novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2) in relation to blood donation and what Vitalant is doing to keep donors, blood drive coordinators, volunteers, staff and patients safe. If you have a question not covered here, please visit our donor eligibility page, call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quite simply, we couldn’t fulfill our lifesaving mission without you. We’re in this for the long term and we’re asking you to do the same. Thank you for stepping up and helping patients in need. We’re counting on your goodwill, partnership and willingness to help others now and in the future. Thank you! Click here to schedule an appointment.
UP-TO-DATE DONOR ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
Please do not donate blood if you are not feeling well. Blood donors are NOT tested for coronavirus.
|Only healthy people can give blood. In light of emerging new information about coronavirus, Vitalant is constantly updating our eligibility criteria as new information emerges from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and blood bank industry leaders. Please visit our website for the latest donation eligibility information.
We are sharing up-to-date information about coronavirus and donation eligibility with our donors and the public via our website, various communications (like email, text, phone calls) and social media.
|Yes! We ask you to keep your commitment to donate blood as long as you are feeling healthy and meet all other eligibility requirements the day you donate, including those related to coronavirus.
Blood donation is a critical and necessary health care activity, permitted by the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) even in cities and states where “shelter in place” and restrictions on “essential activities” have been implemented.
Response to coronavirus is rapidly changing on a day-to-day basis. From self-quarantine measures to shelter-in-place orders, daily life has been as heavily impacted as blood donation operations during this time. We know things may continue to change and a strong appointment schedule in the coming weeks and months will enable Vitalant to ensure patient needs are met.
It is vital we keep our blood supply strong. Blood has a short shelf life and must be continually replenished.
|As blood drives have canceled, we are working quickly to open additional donation opportunities (including extra appointment slots, extending donor center hours and offering additional places to donate) in the coming days and weeks. Please don't feel discouraged if there isn't an immediate appointment available—patients still need you. As experts have emphasized, we don’t know when the outbreak will end; we’ll continue to face blood collection challenges during the coming months.
Appointments are encouraged so we can provide appropriate social distancing, optimize the experience for donors and ensure a consistent supply of blood. Vitalant needs to collect about 5,000 donations every day of the year to meet the ongoing blood needs of patients. If you cannot find a convenient donation opportunity online, call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825) for assistance.
|The blood donation process is safe, but it is a personal choice for anyone—including those who are over 65 years old. In areas where government agencies have advised residents to “shelter-in-place,” you can leave your home to donate blood.
|Yes. If people can still go to grocery stores and pharmacies, giving blood is okay to do as a critical and necessary health care activity.
If you are healthy and well—and you meet all other eligibility criteria, including for coronavirus—we encourage you to schedule an appointment to donate blood.
|No. Our eligibility requirements for donation intervals (time between donations) have not changed and are in place for your safety. We appreciate your interest in helping us meet patients' blood needs. We are currently asking people to make appointments in the coming days and weeks because blood has a ‘shelf life’ and must be constantly replenished. Your donation will be just as important once you are eligible again and we thank you for your dedication. We hope to see you then!
PROTECTING DONORS, STAFF, COORDINATORS AND PATIENTS
(Includes Social Distancing)
|Vitalant has strict measures in place to ensure only healthy donors are giving blood.
Vitalant is following social distancing recommendations to keep donors and staff safe.
- We are prominently posting signage at each donation location, reminding people they must be well and healthy to donate and must meet all eligibility requirements including those related to coronavirus.
- We are taking all donors’ (and visitors’) temperatures at check-in; those with temperatures higher than 99.5 are not allowed to donate or stay at the site.
There is no inherent risk of getting coronavirus from the donation procedure itself. To minimize the risk of contracting it from others, our staff follow rigorous safety and disinfection protocols including:
- We’re providing adequate spacing of chairs in the waiting, donation and refreshment areas to ensure a 6-foot distance between donors.
- We’re offering donors the opportunity to wait in their cars or other comfortable and convenient locations. If donors share a cell phone number when registering, staff will call or text when ready to begin a donor’s medical interview.
- We’re setting up larger waiting areas outside of bloodmobiles (or nearby indoor sites, if available), and limiting the number of donors on bloodmobiles, to ensure a 6-foot distance between donors.
- We’re asking our volunteers or staff to pass out pre-packaged, single use servings of snacks/beverages.
- Wearing masks or cloth-based face coverings
- Wearing gloves and changing/sanitizing them between donors
- Washing their hands before and after any donor contact, after removing gloves and frequently throughout the day. If soap and water aren’t readily available, they use hand sanitizer (with 60% alcohol).
- Wiping down donor-touched and other high-touch areas often and after every collection
- Using sterile, one-time use collection sets for every donation
- Thoroughly cleaning a donor’s arm with an antiseptic for 30 seconds
- Using blankets only once and then professionally cleaning them or using disposable blankets. Blankets may also be wrapped in disposable draping and reused. Donors may bring their own blankets. Heating pads are covered with a disposable pillowcase.
- Encouraging donors to wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer, before visiting our refreshment area.
- Discouraging children and other visitors from coming to our donation locations.
|COVID-19 continues to pose no known risk to patients receiving blood transfusions. There are no reported cases of transmission of this virus via blood transfusion. No cases of transfusion-transmission were ever reported for the other two coronaviruses that emerged during the past two decades (SARS and MERS-CoV).
|Blood donation does not impact or weaken a donor’s immune system.
|No. There currently is no test available for blood donations that screens for COVID-19 and the virus that causes it.
If you are not feeling well, please do not donate. Blood donors are NOT tested for coronavirus.
|Please contact us immediately at the phone number listed on your post-donation instructions.
|There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19), but to reduce the risk of infection, the CDC recommends:
- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoiding touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Cleaning high-touch objects and surfaces
- Staying home if feeling sick
|There is currently no reliable, timely test available to identify the very small number of healthy individuals who are asymptomatically infected and contagious. Our staff follow rigorous disinfection, health screening and distancing protocols to lower the risk of transmission at donation sites.
Our staff are required to stay home if feeling sick and must self-quarantine for 14 days if exposed to an individual who is lab-diagnosed with COVID-19. Our staff notify their supervisors if they have symptoms or have a fever. Vitalant has developed guidance for staff to monitor their own temperatures.
|Based on April 3 CDC guidance and the ability to secure a renewable supply of masks, Vitalant requires that staff wear a mask or other reasonable cloth-based face covering at blood drives and donation centers.
There continues to be a severe mask shortage for hospital health care workers who are caring for sick patients. Vitalant continues to investigate all options for getting additional masks.
|Yes. In alignment with updated CDC guidelines, beginning April 17, donors will be required to wear masks or reasonable cloth-based face coverings at blood drives or donation centers. We encourage donors to bring their own face coverings. Click here for CDC guidance on cloth-based face coverings.
|To ensure the safety of our blood donor community, if a donor does not want to wear a face mask or covering, we ask that they postpone their donation for a later date when such coverings may no longer be recommended for members of the public.
|It’s critical that healthy donors continue to give blood—and organizations continue to organize and host blood drives—to maintain a strong blood supply for patients. Some organizations have canceled blood drives as their schools or worksites have closed or gone remote. However, blood drives account for about 60% of the blood Vitalant collects. We are asking organizations to continue hosting blood drives whenever possible, and other organizations to host a blood drive to replace canceled drives.
|If you have lived with or been in close contact with individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 infection, you should not donate. As long as health professionals are asymptomatic, their job does not affect the donation eligibility of those with whom they live. Health care workers who consistently use CDC-recommended personal protective equipment and come in contact with diagnosed or suspected individuals may also donate as long as they are asymptomatic.
|Vitalant requires that people with a lab-diagnosed COVID-19 infection, or those who suspect they may have had COVID-19 but weren’t tested, wait at least 28 days after resolution of their symptoms before donating for the community blood supply, based on FDA guidelines.
|The FDA has asked blood centers, including Vitalant, to partner with hospitals to collect and distribute plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19. This plasma, known as “convalescent plasma,” contains antibodies to the disease that can be given to patients currently battling COVID-19 to help boost their ability to fight their illness. Vitalant and its Research Institute continues to expand the number of locations where we collect convalescent plasma.
There are specific eligibility criteria to give this kind of donation. If you are interested, please click here for more information and to fill out a prescreening form. If you have any questions, please call 866-CV-PLSMA (866-287-5762).
|Vitalant Research Institute is on the front lines, researching the role of convalescent plasma—that is, plasma taken from COVID-19 patients who have fully recovered—in treating newly diagnosed patients. The Research Institute is helping direct collection and processing of blood plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients and developing technologies to detect and quantify virus-fighting antibodies. Click here for more information.
Vitalant Research Institute was instrumental in the development of Zika virus blood testing and continues to be highly engaged in research, including coronavirus, that impacts the blood supply, including donor health and transfusion safety.