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Your blood is needed

We’ve experienced a great number of changes during the last couple of months, that’s for sure.

There have been any countless number of events and meetings that have been postponed or outright canceled as we take stock of all of the concerns that have been presented by the coronavirus.

Some of those changes have created issues — for instance, several fundraising events that are normally held in the spring have been pushed to late summer and beyond, which means that the charities they support likely will face challenges. We’ve turned to alternative ways to hold meetings — ZOOM and the other video conferencing platforms are suddenly important parts of doing business and even keeping in touch with groups of family members and friends.

They’re so efficient that some meetings that have been scheduled on a regular basis might not be held face-to-face again — they will be electronic gatherings conducted from the comfort of homes and offices. Asking large groups of people to travel to a site will, in some cases, become a thing of the past much more quickly than anyone could have imagined.

There are some things, though, that just can’t be done in any way other than face-to-face, no matter what restrictions are placed on them.

One of those is giving blood.

“We have had to cancel almost every single blood drive that had been scheduled for March, April and May,” explained Phyllis Riccadonna, who works with the Greater Alleghenies Blood Region for the American Red Cross.

“It was very frightening at first — to even have to think about doing that,” she said. “We were faced with the fact of not being able to supply hospitals with life-saving blood, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately to our shock and amazement, a lot of people volunteered to host blood drives.”

That includes one of the region’s most important events for the Red Cross — the annual Jefferson County Media Blood Donor Day.

Despite all of the guidelines and restriction that have been put in place, this year’s event will go on as scheduled. It will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Wintersville United Methodist Church’s Center of Hope, located at 702 Main St. in the village.

It’s a time for area residents to step up and help members of the community.

The event will take a different look this year — specific protocols have been put into place for all blood drives, Riccadonna said. That would include temperatures being taken at the door, donors being required to wear masks, all Red Cross personnel being required to wear masks, areas being sanitized between donors and donors being kept 6 feet apart.

There also won’t be any of the amenities donors to the media day have come to expect — there will not be pizza, doughnuts and coffee, but, Riccadonna said, there will be juice, water and packaged snacks. All donors will receive a $5 Amazon gift card by e-mail.

In spite of those restrictions, Riccadonna said, residents have not shied away from donating, and she expects that will be the case Wednesday.

“The blood donors have been coming out in droves,” she said.

“Our attendance has been higher than normal. It’s just amazing to me, that with all of the concerns about social distancing people have been willing to do it.

“For every drive we have had since March, we’ve been doing social distancing and sanitizing. It takes a little longer, and because of that we are really encouraging people to make an appointment.”

That can be done by telephone, at (800) 733-2767 or by visiting RedCrossBlood.org and entering JeffMedia.

Riccadonna, whose territory covers 10 counties on either side of the Ohio River, said it’s not easy to put a finger on the turnouts.

“Maybe people are just bored from being at home, or maybe they are not working right now and are able to give blood when in the past they just couldn’t get to a drive because of work.”

Whatever the reason, blood donation remains critical.

“We have to continue to find a way to continue blood drive through the next six months,” she explained. “So many of the places we have held drives aren’t available. That includes nursing homes — we were doing a lot of drives at nursing homes. We’re hoping that in the fall the schools are going to be able to let us back in.”

For now, the attention is on Wednesday’s media day. For many years now, the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times have been happy to join with WTRF-TV and WTOV-TV to help promote the event, something Riccadonna is appreciative of.

“It is one of our bigger drives,” she said. “It’s important because on this day we usually collect more blood than we do on any other day of the year. The more blood, the more patients we can save. It’s the community coming together to help others.”

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times,)

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