The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Hawaii’s jobs, businesses, tourism industry and now its blood supply.
Blood Bank of Hawai‘i (BBH) will host its first three-day neighbor-island drive on Kaua‘i starting Aug. 25 after a five-month hiatus. All blood types are needed and will be used. However, BBH is experiencing the highest demand for both O-positive and O-negative blood types on an ongoing basis, with or without COVID-19.
“To stabilize the current blood supply, Blood Bank of Hawai‘i’s goal is to secure 140 appointments per day,” said Todd Lewis, BBH Chief Operating Officer about the upcoming drive on Kaua‘i.
BBH hasn’t been able to host neighbor-island drives since March. The decision to cancel drives was made in consultation with county mayors in order to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community.
“We paused both neighbor-island drives and community-sponsored drives on O‘ahu at the same time, so that immediately impacted our mobile collections, which represents about 70% of our annual collections,” Lewis said.
Lewis said BBH had to create an O‘ahu-based collections system that relies on donors coming to its two fixed sites in Honolulu and three mobile buses established as pop-up locations. People are more familiar with BBH coming to their community.
“It’s been difficult and we’ve relied on imports when we’ve had to in order to maintain our distribution efforts at all hospitals,” Lewis said. “There have been days when we really struggled to keep up with demand, especially with certain blood types.”
Hawai‘i’s O-type supply, Lewis explained, has dipped from a comfortable three-day supply to as low as a one-day supply, which he says is especially concerning due to hurricane season and with so many people in the ICU.
“O-negative is in highest demand because it’s accepted by everyone,” Lewis said. “O-positive can be used by anyone with a positive blood type, which is the majority of people in Hawaii, so that’s second highest in demand.”
Kaua‘i has a relatively high number of registered donors with these blood types. During 2019, BBH traveled to Kaua‘i six times and held three-day blood drives during each trip. On average, they performed 56 procedures per day and in total, 766 Kaua‘i residents donated at least once last year.
As of Aug. 19, within 24 hours of BBH’s announcement of the upcoming blood drive, approximately 65% of Kaua‘i appointments were booked.
“We understand that there may be some donors who may be concerned due to COVID-19, if not for themselves, then for family members who they interact with, but we believe that there will be other donors who are healthy and ready to donate,” Lewis said. “I’m optimistic that the Kaua‘i community will come out because they believe in the importance of our mission.”
In an effort to make the process safe, BBH has worked with Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami on safety and sanitation protocols in accordance with state and federal guidelines. Lewis said all equipment will be disinfected, there were will be detailed staff procedures on proper utilization of all necessary personal protective equipment, which includes masks for staff and donors.
“We appreciate the support of Mayor Kawakami and his administration, and look forward to hosting our Kaua‘i donors in the safest way possible,” said Todd Lewis, chief operating officer of Blood Bank of Hawai‘i. “We’ve missed our Kauai donor ‘ohana, and are thankful that we can return to maintain a safe level of inventory for all of Hawai‘i’s patients.”
BBH staff will be tested for COVID-19 prior to coming to the Garden Island. Onsite, Lewis said, they will be prescreening donors and maintaining social distancing. Only 10 people will be allowed to donate at a time, thus BBH will not be able to accommodate walk-ins.
Collections will take place at Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall from August 25-27, with hours of operation varying by day: Aug. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Aug. 27 from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
BBH is currently exploring ways to safely visit donors on Maui and Hawai‘i Island. Once plans are finalized and they have county leadership approval, they will make those announcements.
To make an appointment or learn more about safety measures, visit bloodbanktough.org or call 808-848-4770.