Blood Bank of Hawaii to hold Big Island drives for first time since onset of pandemic

  • Phlebotomist Connie Ryan marks the location of a vein on Linda Quarberg's arm as Quarberg prepares to donate blood for the 226th time in January 2019 during a Blood Bank of Hawaii blood drive at Aunty Sally's Luau Hale in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo)

The Blood Bank of Hawaii is returning to the neighbor islands for the first time since March to collect blood from donors.

The Blood Bank stopped collection services when the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Hawaii and the stay-at-home order was enacted in March.

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“We are exceedingly grateful to Mayor (Harry) Kim for giving us permission to host our Hawaii Island drives this fall,” said Todd Lewis, Blood Bank of Hawaii chief operations officer. “Our staff is excited to return, and will do everything possible to make saving lives a safe and enjoyable experience.”

In addition to whole blood donations, healthy donors who have a positive, lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and have been symptom-free for 28 days may contact the Blood Bank to learn how they can donate plasma.

According to the FDA, anyone who has fought a coronavirus infection will have COVID-19 antibodies in their plasma. These antibodies provided one way for the immune system to fight the virus, so donated plasma can be used to help others fight off the disease.

The Blood Bank is also specifically seeking O-negative and O-positive donors, because Hawaii experiences a chronically low supply of type-O blood, according to the Blood Bank.

While all blood is needed and welcomed, O-negative is the highest in demand because it’s accepted by everyone. O-positive can be used by anyone with a positive blood type, which is about 80% of local residents.

Blood donors do not need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before collection, because the virus is not spread through the blood. However, additional COVID-19 protocols and procedures recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be followed at all collection locations.

“We are following stringent sanitizing guidelines and checking vitals before allowing people to donate,” spokeswoman Kashmira Reid said. “Face masks are also required of course.”

To further protect donors, walk-ins will not be allowed. Donors must make an appointment online or over the phone.

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People interested in donating blood can do so for three days only at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Hilo. Collection times are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24. No collection events are currently scheduled for Kona or Waimea.

Donors may register at bbh.org or call (808) 848-4770.

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